With the Covid-19 vaccinations ramping up around the world there has been some apprehension that these could be “the mark of the beast,” some sort of globalist agenda to make the planet march to their orders.
Besides the fact that Christians in past ages have fretted over this mark in one form or another and it never came to pass (e.g. everything from slave brands to computer chips have been suggested; besides different names [see below]), there are a few reason why the Covid vaccine is probably not this mark:
What is this mark?
*It must be noted that apocalyptic litterature is picture language, and besides other complex matters in understanding Revelation, must be kept in view.
Not delving into the broader context, Rev 13:17–18 says:
“16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave,[a] to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 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. 18 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.”
What are some basic facts? The mark relates to the beast. Everyone will need its name or number to conduct business. Christians are to be discerning to watch out for the man and his number, which is 666.
The mark in all certainty refers to the notion of slave branding. Like cattle branding it lets people know to whom you belong. However, in Ezekiel 9:4–6 this same notion is more veiled, only God can see the sign visibly, to others it must be invisibly or spiritually discerned. Brands also speak heavily to the subject of loyalty, to whom do I belong.
It evidently meant something to John’s readers (“let the one who has understanding…”) so we shouldn’t give up inquiring.
Some in church history used gematria, using the numeric symbols to calculate the letters they represent. Some, using Greek, thought it spelled Tatian, an early Emperor. Others, using Hebrew, Nero Caesar (the Emperor who killed Peter and Paul). Some have thought it to refer to Popes, Martin Luther and even Ronald Reagan (and a host of characters in between!).
In the 3rd century many Emperors demanded certificates of sacrifice to pagan gods. Some Christians compromised and some refused and were burned or cast into the colosseums. This practice of enforcement has been employed since (the Test Acts in 17th C England, Trudeau’s attempt with the Summer Jobs program). Something to do with this mark means persecution for the faithful that diminishes their economic standing.
Let me suggest another numeric way of coming at 666 that builds on some of what we’ve worked through. (On this verse I follow the interpretation of Steve Wilmshurst, Revelation: The Final Word).
In the Bible the number “7” is the perfect number (e.g. the Creation week). Therefore as God is triune and if He could be assigned a number it would be 777; this is the number of Divine perfection.
666 then is a number of someone who seeks to imitate God but ultimately falls short, even as it demands loyalty to it. It is the number of the “unholy trinity” (Satan, the Beast and the whore of Babylon). Remembering that marks are like brands, they are a symbol of loyalty. The person who has the mark of the beast shows they are of the beast. The devil’s agents give false signs (13:13) whereas Christ’s agents have true signs (11:5–6). Remembering too the more invisible nature of marks from Ezekiel, these signs are the fruit of such a person’s moral character (you shall know them [professors] by their fruit, Mt 7:16a), either Christlike or wicked. Often throughout history, and still today, Christians have been persecuted (with economic effect) because of who they are, what they stand for and where their ultimate allegiance lies.
I would contend then that the mark is not merely some future thing but a present reality of someone who bears the characteristics of their father, the devil (Jn 8:44).
The wisdom of Revelation, written to persecuted Christians, is less eschatological and more imminently practical. It is to teach the wisdom of trench warfare that says: be on the lookout for the fruits, for these will help us discern friend from foe; and don’t conform, not even for economic benefit, and betray your loyalty to 777 for the fleeting pleasures afforded by 666.
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