This is the “mark of the beast” referred to by the number “666,” in the book of Revelation 13:16-18. There is probably more rubbish, complete nonsense, wild speculations, mystical notions and fanciful theories and conjurings of man written about this topic than anything else in the entire Bible (with the possible exception of the Dispensational Premillennialism false teaching).
Even those who don’t even believe, or read, the Bible seem to have this all figured out and are happy to tell you what it means. And it’s always wrong of course. And Friend, this brings up a good point, which shouldn’t even have to be said: don’t get your doctrine and Bible interpretations from secular sources! You’re in for a world of trouble and deception if you do, but I see it happening all the time.
First let’s talk about the symbolism and meaning of this passage; only after that is established can we then we can talk about the possible fulfillments of this and discuss its applicability to us today. But each in that order.
You see, when one accepts Christ, you are “born again” of the Holy Spirit, who resides in you; this is how you abide in Christ, and He in you. This Spirit is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! There is much that could be written about the Holy Spirit, enough to fill an entire book or two; the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. He feels, thinks, acts, and is fully God. Know that the Holy Spirit is a person; He is not a force, or an entity or an “it.” He feels, thinks, acts, and is fully God.
The Holy Spirit is also described as all of these:
- The Eternal Spirit,
- The Spirit of Christ,
- The Spirit of Life,
- The Spirit of Promise,
- The Spirit of Judgment and Fire (Burning), and
- The Oil of Gladness
- (among other names)
Scripture refers to this as being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit; it is SYMBOLICALLY described as having a “mark” placed on your forehead if you will, and this mark identifies you as now being a child of God. It is not a literal mark placed on your forehead.
King David writes about this in Psalm 23 “You have anointed my head with oil”; Revelation 7:3 says this: “sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” These are speaking SMYBOLICALLY of being marked as belonging to Christ, being sealed by the Holy Spirit, for those having accepted Christ, and are following Him in mind, body and spirit.
In contrast, for those who reject Christ, the Bible also SYMBOLICALLY speaks to them as having a “mark” placed on their forehead or their hand, which signifies that you are following Satan the devil in mind (forehead – heart and mind) and in action/deeds (on the hand – doing his deeds and the deeds of this sinful world).
That’s it, there’s nothing mystical or mysterious about all this. That’s the two marks, you are either marked as in Christ, or in this world, which is of Satan and not in Christ. Those are the only two families of people on Earth.
Furthermore, this mark is being given out CONSTANTLY over this gospel and church age, to those that choose Christ and those that do not over their lives. It is not something that corresponds to some peculiar or specific moment in world history! And suffice it to say the mark of the beast referenced in the book of Revelation is NOT a microchip in your hand and/or a barcode on your forehead. That is complete ridiculous rubbish and nonsense!
Once again, if you are following man and the world (“for the ways of man lead to death”, Proverbs 14:12), then you have the mark of the beast (who is of Satan, and this world); if you are following Jesus, then you have the mark/anointing of the Oil of Gladness (The Holy Spirit), sealing you as a child of God. That is the symbolism described.
Note: Interestingly, the Bible also refers to this marking as those who have the name of God (Christ) written on their foreheads, and those that have the name of the World (“BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”) written on their foreheads. The symbolism is obvious and exactly the same: followers of Christ or followers of Satan/this world/man.
Regarding fulfillment of this prophecy, note that Biblical prophecy can have both a near and far fulfillment, for the same prophecy. I value the commentary from biblical scholars not infected with other false teachings (such as Dispensational Premillennialism and Realized Eschatology, and Radical Preterism in particular), and I also weigh whether they are teaching correct doctrine in many other areas, because as I’ve indicated, false teachings come in packs. These agree that this prophecy likely described the persecution of Christians by the Roman Catholic Church (not pagan Rome under Nero), in the centuries after the apostolic/early church age coincident with the rise of Popery (the great apostasy, another false teaching!).
On the beast (Popery), Matthew Henry writes this:
The pope shows the horns of a lamb, pretends to be the vicar of Christ upon earth, and so to be vested with his power and authority; but his speech betrays him, for he gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees which show him to belong to the dragon, and not to the Lamb.
- The power which he exercises: All the power of the former beast(Revelation 13:12); he promotes the same interest, pursues the same design in substance, which is, to draw men off from worshipping the true God to worshipping those who by nature are no gods, and subject the souls and consciences of men to the will and authority of men, in opposition to the will of God. This design is promoted by the popery as well as by paganism, and by the crafty arts of popery as well as by the secular arm, both serving the interests of the devil, though in a different manner.
On the buying and selling he writes this:
Excommunications, anathemas, severe censures, by which they pretend to cut men off from Christ, and cast them into the power of the devil, but do indeed deliver them over to the secular power, that they may be put to death; and thus, notwithstanding their vile hypocrisy, they are justly charged with killing those whom they cannot corrupt. 3. By disfranchisement, allowing none to enjoy natural, civil, or municipal rights, who will not worship that papal beast, that is, the image of the pagan beast. It is made a qualification for buying and selling the rights of nature, as well as for places of profit and trust, that they have the mark of the beast in their forehead and in their right hand, and that they have the name of the beast and the number of his name. It is probable that the mark, the name, and the number of the beast, may all signify the same thing – that they make an open profession of their subjection and obedience to the papacy, which is receiving the mark in their forehead, and that they oblige themselves to use all their interest, power, and endeavor, to promote the papal authority, which is receiving the mark in their right hands. We are told that pope Martin V. in his bull, added to the council of Constance, prohibits Roman Catholics from suffering any heretics to dwell in their countries, or to make any bargains, use any trades, or bear any civil offices, which is a very clear interpretation of this prophecy.
And in the number of his name he writes this:
We have here the number of the beast, given in such a manner as shows the infinite wisdom of God, and will sufficiently exercise all the wisdom and accuracy of men: The number is the number of a man, computed after the usual manner among men, and it is 666. Whether this be the number of the errors and heresies that are contained in popery, or rather, as others, the number of the years from its rise to its fall, is not certain, much less what that period is which is described by these prophetic numbers. The most admired dissertation on this intricate subject is that of Dr. Potter, where the curious may find sufficient entertainment. It seems to me to be one of those seasons which God has reserved in his own power; only this we know, God has written Mene Tekel upon all his enemies; he has numbered their days, and they shall be finished, but his own kingdom shall endure for ever.
Regarding the number (“666”), you should also know that nearly all the numbers in the book of Revelation are symbolic, not literal.
So whether the buying and selling restriction had an exact literal fulfillment under the Roman Catholic Church’s persecution of Christians in the past doesn’t change its application, meaning and purpose to us today, which is: if someone asks you to worship any man or any system of man instead of Christ (or to deny Christ), simply say no, even in matters of life and (physical) death and persecution! You’ll never have to worry about this “mark of the beast” therefore.
And note that some Satanic inspired worldly forces may try to once again mimic/imitate this prophecy again in the future, because Satan likes to imitate the Bible, although in an evil way, for evil purposes.
So, let’s now bring this down from the level of symbolism and make it very real: you already have the mark of the beast if you are following the ways of man and this sinful fallen world under the leadership of Satan the devil; for if you are not in Christ, then you are of Satan the devil your father. Remember that it is written that “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”
[see Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, John 6:27, Ephesians 4:30, Psalm 23:5, Proverbs 14:12, Revelation 7:3-4, 9:4, 13:16-17, 14:1, 14:9, 17:5, 22:4]