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A Mark of the Beast


An article by one of our frequent guests, Scott Alan Buss. (Shared with permission)

A Mark of the Beast  Scott Alan Buss

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.

English: Uppercase and lowercase Greek letter ...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.

The above article originally ran in The Wisconsin Christian News and can be found by clicking here or at http://www.wisconsinchristiannews.com/view.php?sid=4623.

Copyright 2013 Scott Alan Buss. All rights reserved.

You can send feedback directly to Scott Alan Buss at Scott@FireBreathingChristians.com

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8 Responses to “A Mark of the Beast”

  1. Darrel #

    This article does not help, but only adds to the confusion concerning the Rev. 13 "mark of the beast." In a round-about-way you seem to be saying that a Christian in America may have such a mark on him now and without him knowing it. Please do not combine the real mark of the beast that is to be given to unbelievers during the Tribulation with the state of believers now in the USA.

    So what is the extent of your "compromise" in regard to the sacrifices you are unable to see that others have made. What sacrifices have you made? You say that Christianity lacks such sacrifice in America and you know this HOW? Perhaps what you see most are false believers for there are many that claim to be saved and are not—I was one for over forty years, but God had mercy on me and saved me almost nine years ago. You have no idea what believers have been called upon to "sacrifice." Loved ones who refuse to have contact because of their stance for Christ. Children that die in their early years with believing parents grieving 'til the day they die. Income being cut again and again. Can you live on 25% of your 2009 income? Expulsion from churches that teach false doctrine when questions are raised as to why the church condones falsehood. Need I go on?

    Since you have such a low opinion of the believers around you, perhaps you should look for those who really do love their Lord and Savior and have made some of the sacrifices you don't seem to be able to find.

    PS Sounds like you have a good case of the Elijah syndrome and have forgotten that our Lord has reserved a remnant that have not bowed the knee to Baal. I get there sometimes, too.

    August 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to think this over and post, Daniel.

      First off, as I hoped to make clear fairly early in the article, as well as in its title, the point of discussion was *a* mark of the beast, as opposed to *the* mark of the beast.

      That said, another point of the piece was to encourage believers to set aside extra-biblical presuppositions regarding the nature of such a mark.

      One of the hallmarks of man-centered religion masquerading as God's religion is an incredible ability to miss spiritual truth in favor of standards rooted in that which is visible or physical. We see that in the Judaism of Christ's day as well as in most professing Christianity of today.

      Consider the well known foundational passage of Deuteronomy 6, 4-8, which reads:

      “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes."

      The religionists who missed (and continue to miss) the point of this passage believed that interpreting the sign (or mark) that was to be present on their hand and on their forehead was a literal, physical thing. A literal mark or physical object. So, with that externally visible, physical notion of a sign or mark in mind, they made literal, physical items with which to mark themselves on the forehead (between the eyes) and on their hands.

      Please note the very same forehead/hand combo here in relation to the "mark of the beast" in Revelation.

      This is one clear example of man-centered religionists "missing the mark", so to speak. They truly believed that by their outward conformity to a particular (mis)interpretation of Scripture that they were putting themselves "in a good place" with God.

      In His sermon on the mount, Christ made point after point along these lines. Again and again, He destroyed the myths of the man-centered religionists who claimed conformity to God's will by way of their external, observable practices, rather than understanding their position with Him by the state of their heart and spirit. As one of many examples of this, consider the following passage from Matthew:

      "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)

      Here we see Christ's correction of the natural, sinful inclinations of the man-centered religionist. Where the religionist believes that he can mark himself as faithful to God through the pursuit or avoidance of certain externally visible standards or things, the Lord makes plain that this is not so. Christ clarifies that a man is not marked accurately in such a manner. Jesus tells us that it is the thought of a man that marks him, and that mark, while crystal clear in the most important sense, is *non-physical*.

      While there are many more points in Scripture we could touch upon in reference to this interesting and important subject, I will end this response with a look at the opening section from the final chapter of the book of Revelation, which reads:

      "No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22: 3-5)

      Here we again see a mark referenced, specifically "the name of the Lord", which will be on "his servants' foreheads". Is this a literal "Jesus" or "JHVH" inscribed on the foreheads of God's people? Or could it be, in harmony with the other passages cited here, another symbolic reference to an infinitely more meaningful reality – a nonphysical reality that defines every nonphysical *and* every physical action to flow from the "marked" individual in question?

      The Jews of Jesus' day and many professing Christians today certainly prefer external, physical notions of such "marks" for all of the same, obvious reasons, chief among them that they can be taken on or avoided externally without there having been a true, internal, worldview- and lifestyle-altering supernatural change of the heart. Such a supernaturally changed heart is the true mark of belief, and it will mark all believers' thoughts and actions accordingly, by God's grace and for His glory.

      I'm not really comfortable discussing in detail here the ways in which I've been impacted negatively by the world (and infinitely more positively by the Lord) due to the mark which, by God's grace, grows more clear and clearly visible with each step taken in my walk of sanctification – a walk through which I often stumble, and stumble badly, it should be noted, yet one through which He is faithful when I am not. I have only just begun, and with each step taken in measurable progress by the grace of God, I see with more clarity the infinite gap between His holiness and my sinfulness. Yet, the progress is there and I pray that it continues, knowing that as it does, my mark will become more and more clear to a watching world and that I will suffer more and more for it in the ways that matter least (the worldly) and gain more and more from it in the ways that matter most (the eternal things of Christ).

      When we see the examples of the Apostles and the first century church as recorded in Scripture, we see with great clarity the price of being marked for Christ. It very often costs us every comparatively little thing in this world, including our literal lives.

      This is where great contrast lies with modern American "Christianity", as most Americans – professing Christians included – worship the dollar in reality while they may claim to worship the Lord with their mouths. This reality in particular seems to resonate *very* well with the crystal clear *economic* relevance of the mark of the beast described in the book of Revelation.

      The explicit attachment of that mark to severe economic consequences surely has *something* to say about an American "Christianity" loaded with professing believers who will drop biblical obligations in a hot second if it will cost them much in their wallets. And that's only where there's a "significant" hit in the I-am-actually-being-made-uncomfortable sense. How much more likely is the typical professing American believer to flee from being clearly "marked for Christ" when that mark will cost him deep, painful, and even ruinous financial loss or hardship?

      If such "belief" will not suffer severe economic loss when such loss can be avoided by taking on "the mark of the world", then how can such "believers" be expected to sacrifice things even more precious than dollars? Will they literally put their lives on the line or will they not? Will they literally die for the faith or will they not?

      These are not merely rhetorical questions. They're not metaphorical either.

      While one ought not pursue a martyr complex (begging to be put to death for Christ), true believers throughout history have been marked by a martyr's spirit (one willing to give every relatively little thing here, including physical life itself, for the defense of His truth and the acquisition of infinitely greater things to come).

      The relatively recent blight and prevalence of "newspaper eschatology", "Left Behind 'theology'", and "pin-the-tail-on-the-antichrist" mentalities has once again proven that "we are a forgetful people" who are very much prone to trade-in the supernaturally profound spiritual realities of Scripture for what we see as identifiable, attainable, and sometimes avoidable external things and standards.

      The Lord has indeed perfectly secured His remnant. They are and will be marked for him…*clearly* marked…whether they have a literal, physical mark or not. They will suffer personal loss of relationships and status for His name's sake through the stands they take for Him and against the world. They will suffer sometimes ruinous economic hardship for His name's sake through the stands they take for Him and against the world. And they will in many cases suffer literal, physical execution for His name's sake through the stands they take for Him against the world.

      Yet they *will* do all of these things – they will actually stand for Him – all by His grace and for His eternal glory.

      Now *that* is a mark!

      I honestly cannot imagine a more clear mark than that…the sort of mark that could only come to be through a supernatural rebirth that replaces temporal obsessions with true eternal perspective and passion – not just in words, but in action…self-sacrificial action.

      Those imagining themselves to be secure based on their not having a literal, physical "mark of the beast" or mark of the world on their hand or forehead are operating on presumptions clearly opposed to the teaching of Scripture. Their thoughts (forehead) and actions (hand) make their mark plain…right here and right now.

      There is price to be paid for being marked for Christ. That price is measured in the loss of flawed and quickly fleeting things. The benefits of the mark of Christ, however, are perfect and eternal.

      The benefits of the mark of the beast/mark of the world are real as well, but they are fatally flawed and quickly fading. The price of this mark is eternal damnation.

      These marks are the only two possible present realities for all of humanity, right here and right now. Everyone has one mark or the other.

      That is the point here.

      And *that* ought to inspire His people to make their mark shine brightly through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel to the lost…while there is yet time.

      Hope these clarifications are helpful.

      Thanks again for chiming in!

      In His grip,


      August 21, 2013 at 7:40 PM Reply
    • Steve #

      Interesting discussion. I would only interject, perhaps peripherally, that "Expulsion from churches that teach false doctrine when questions are raised as to why the church condones falsehood." is no sacrifice, but a means of grace.

      August 22, 2013 at 12:45 AM Reply
  2. Oops, sorry Darrel! Got the wrong name in there, but I do thank you for your reply.

    August 21, 2013 at 7:43 PM Reply
  3. Darrel #

    It's good to see that you have retracted (if only partially) your broad condemnation of believers in America. Those of us who really are born again have been placed into the Body of Christ, we are His church, His Bride. Perhaps you should consider that the Lord Jesus does not take kindly, nor wink at those who would speak ill of His Bride without a cause.

    Those who harp on how bad things are come and go with the wind. It is true that false brethren are rampant here in the US, and have exported their lies around the world, but you seem to lump the false with the true and press condemnation on all. Here's hoping that is not your intent.

    Those who focus their attention on the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ will not have their works burned away at the Judgment Seat of Christ. When the narcissistic concepts of salvation are laid aside and the real reason for us being saved in the first place is realized then will our thoughts, words and actions actually glorify our Lord and Savior. May it be suggested that multiple (two dozen or more) and consecutive readings of Ephesians (at least the first four chapters, if not all six) be done 'til the full import of what Christ has done for believers begins to flood your heart and mind. Keeping in mind that the real reason anyone is saved is not that we may escape His righteous wrath, nor that we may live happily ever after in heaven, but solely for His sake—Ezek. 36:22 & 32; Isa.43:25; Col. 1:16; 1John 2:12

    August 22, 2013 at 3:37 AM Reply
    • Thanks again for chiming in, Darrel.

      I have made no retractions, partial or otherwise. The clarifications made in my response to your post are in complete harmony with the original post.

      Have a good one.

      In His grip,


      August 22, 2013 at 3:48 AM Reply
  4. There is another mark, or seal given to believer's in Revelation seven. The part of Rev 13 that leaves open very strongly the possibility of the mark not being a physical device is the phrase "on the right hand or the forehead. ". Both of these speak of different if related ways of fellowship. The right is about business, contracts, and integrity. It could mean being at peace with a globalization that fungeably benefits wickedness. The forehead is always understood as symbolic of the will and distinction might be about those are more openly embracing the antichrist worship. Both classes would defacto enemies of the cross. Yet we have this evidence for some kind of physical mark.

    The word speaks to a branding or etching. It can figurative and I would be careful not insist it is literal, but also to carefully examine how it might be figurative in the context of end times narratives. Also not computer networking and the Internet most assuredly plays a key role in implementing the implied control grid.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:26 AM Reply

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