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.
Even prior to the Premier’s announcement of a lockdown today, Christmas and New Year’s, for many people, was going to look much different than the season of faith, family and merriment that many people often associate with the season. The lockdown announced for Boxing Day will make this an even more difficult season for many.
To put this in perspective (and provide encouragement) and to remember that Christmas is about Christ—that He is all we need for a blessed Christmas or to live a blessed life in the face of trials—let us turn to the first Christmas story to contemplate just how difficult it would have been for Joseph and Mary and how Christ made all the difference.
Though they had no Christmas by which to evaluate their lived experience, the first Christmas was no easy time for Mary and Joseph. Notwithstanding the shame the couple probably faced because of the pre-marital pregnancy, they had to travel away from their comfort zone and support network, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While not a long distance by modern standards, it was far enough by ancient standards. We might think that because Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” that he would have had close family to call in on. However, Luke’s silence on this matter leads us to believe that Joseph’s roots were more connected to Nazareth than they were to Bethlehem; otherwise some relative probably would have made room for them. As it stood, homes and inns full because of the census, the couple were all alone in a foreign town and had to take shelter in a stable, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:7). Bad travel plans, a grotty motel—not to mentioned being 9 months pregnant—it all seemed as if their stay would be a miserable one. But the cherish story of the nativity is far from unhappy because Jesus made all the difference.
Trusting God’s providence in the situation, looking to Him, Joseph and Mary were pleasantly surprise that first Christmas. The promised One of old, revealed as the expected child through prophecies, dreams and visions, finally arrived. The birth of any child has the effect of bringing joy to troubled circumstances; how much greater must have their joy been to welcome the Christ child!? Then unexpected visitors dropped in and told of angelic choirs rejoicing at the Saviour’s birth. God was encouraging the couple. Mary treasured and “pondered these things in her heart” as the shepherds went away “glorifying and praising God.” It is amazing how faith in God’s providence and the presence of Christ can bring joy to otherwise discouraging circumstances!
The Christmas holidays of 2020–21 will certainly be different, but they needn’t be as grim as Satan may tempt us to think. May it be that God is stripping away all of the distractions and adornments of the holidays: goodies, good company, traditions, etc, etc, so that we might focus exclusively on Jesus? As we worship Christ at Christmas may we be filled with all the joy and wonder Joseph and Mary were on that first bleak mid-winter Christmas night, and may we be a light in the darkness.
“His [Jesus’] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:12; c.f. Lk 3:17)
When I was younger I worked for an organic farmer for several years who still used many traditional Ontario farming practices, including the fanning mill. Taking grain from the grainery of the old hip roof barn I insert pails of raw grain directly into the mill. A combination of the fanning and shaking would separate the chaff from the grain. The chaff was good for, well, nothing; and the grain, free from defect or blemish, would be used to plant in the fields. This Victorian invention mechanized the age old practice that Jesus describes in our verse, whereby the grain was threshed (beaten to loosen the grain) and then winnowed by tossing the grain-husk-stem mix into the air. The breeze would carry away the unwanted materials and the grain would fall to the threshing floor to be collected, used or consumed. The chaff would be burned.
Now this verse has an eschatological edge to it (end times), however, there is a sense in which it has more universal application today: the Lord is often busy about winnowing the visible Church, separating real and nominal Christians, the former to His glory and the latter to their derision.
As we’ve been seeing in C2C, at certain times in history seismic events overturn established orders and reveal the true state of things, human hearts.
For many years the wheat and chaff in the visible church have been allowed to remain together in Ontario churches. Many people looked like respectable Christians, that is until the winnowing fork was set to them, the pressure produced by recent seismic shifts and events that revealed on what side of the line they really stood:
We are living in changing times and the pressures of these changes are highly revelatory as to the hearts of visible Christians. This is burdensome, yet there is hope, hope that the church, purged, pruned and winnowed may be the faithful remnant that will then shine forth all the brighter in the darkness.
The crowd, the media, pressures people to abandoned independent thought, and through fear, make them conform to their program. That is what lies behind virtue signalling.
Virtue signalling, a buzz word these days, is when you go along with the flow, not believing it to be true, but accepting or giving lip service to it, so that you do not face its wrath or intimidation.
But this is so very dangerous, to go along with something you don’t believe in simply out of the fear of public reprisal. This is how Nazi Germany developed, with too many Germans fearing taking a stand and so becoming virtue signallers for the safety of their families, economic benefit or continued social standing.
An old county song I recall from my youth had this poignant line, “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
Biblically, that something ought to be what God has said is true. In grace, we need to pray that as Christians we would have the boldness to speak the truth; that He would give us the courage to stand with the Lord in faith and not go along with the world in fear.
So many men of women of the faith from the Bible and history come to mind when I think of this, however, one verse strikes me, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)
May we be radiant signals pointing people away from the world and to Christ!
Names being changed, statues being toppled, all a result of Cancel Culture. What is this?
Cancel Culture is the belief that anything that does not align with “modern sensibilities” or your view or ideology generally, must be cancelled, gotten rid of, purged, forgotten, if we are to liberate ourselves and create the world we desire to live in.
If he/she/they were slave owners, traditionalists, “homophobes,” etc, etc, they have no place in the remembrance of society, they must be cancelled.
From a historical perspective, Cancel Culture is troubling because it seeks to erase history and tell a different tale rather than recognize it, learn from it, understand it as part of your story and move on to new chapters of that story.
Politically it is disconcerting because this is the same strategy employed by Authoritarian and Communist countries. Identify the story that stands against your story and power, and cancel it. Those who used to be traditional liberals and moderates are more and more embracing what their very movement used to stand against.
Spiritually, however, Cancel Culture is most distressing for it foolishly believes that people are perfect. Reality check: if you look hard enough into any past or present figure—and even figures from your own group—you are going to find something nasty you could dig up. Why? Because no one is perfect (Ps 14:1a, Ro 3:10), we’re all sinners (Ro 3:23), even amongst the righteous we will not find one example of someone who never sins (Eccl 7:20).
Seeking to cancel our sin doesn’t change the reality. Instead we ought to recognize it and learn from it; to learn the chief lesson that if we want to become the person God desires us to be we need to ask him to cancel (to forgive) our sin—the shadiness of our past and present—and give us new life by His Spirit.
There was ever only perfect man, Jesus, and He was hated and killed for being perfect, yet He couldn’t be cancelled. He rose from the dead, is ascended into Heaven and calls on people to look ahead, look up, look to Him, if they desire a better life and future.
Black lives matter.
Of course they do! Though Christians may hold a patriotic view of their ethno-culture there is no room for nationalistic racism on two grounds: a) all humans have been made in God’s image and so are therefore worthy of respect and value, and b) in relation to slavery, which because of 16th–19th century slavery Africans became linked to, there is likewise no place as Rev 18:13 says that when Babylon (a picture of the corrupt powers of this world) is overthrown, there will be no more slaves, thus Christianity should not support slavery of any form.
All that said, what of BLM, a movement begun in 2016 and now an international network (though not a group that is the voice of all Black people and thus not a homogenous)? You can find out more about them on their website. As trendy as BLM has become in society and amongst the media—you can even buy their merch!—there are a number of concerning elements in BLM that should cause Christians to be warry of it, indeed to take no part in it (instead finding other ways to promote anti-racist causes of justice and to fight modern slavery).
Just a few include:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit [or new and popular movement], but test the spirits to see whether they are from [or of] God… (1 Jn 4:1a)
When anyone asks me to marry them I will always agree to have at least one meeting, to learn about the couple, see where they are spiritually, get to know one another and see if we (officiant and couple) are a good fit. It’s a no-strings attached informal info session. At the very least it is an opportunity to share of the Christian vision of marriage and most importantly the Gospel. If we decide to proceed the couple commits to biblical premarital counselling.
Sometimes, sadly, because of sin and an unwillingness to do things God’s way on the part of the couple, I, by conscience and conviction, cannot proceed beyond this first conversation. This is of course done respectfully and charitably but must nevertheless be done. For example, I cannot marry same-sex or trans-gendered couples. Adultery, fornication, divorce and remarriage are also things that must be seriously explored. If the couple are not Christians I ask why a Christian marriage and will invest in a couple seriously interested in the ways of the Lord versus those interested in a Christian wedding simply because the Church has a centre aisle. I believe holy matrimony to be a sacred institution and so I am quite comfortable stepping outside of the common lens of seeing it as a form of evangelism (it is primarily an opportunity to disciple and not to evangelize, though in some cases this may be a positive side benefit). As someone who is lawfully allowed to officiate over wedding ceremonies I take the opportunity with all seriousness likening the responsibility to James 3:1, not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
You may have noticed that I left out one sort of couple, the blended couple, or a Christian seeking to marry a non-Christian. Should a Christian even entertain marrying a non-Christian? Should a Christian officiant preside over a mixed-wedding? Though some would argue it is a great opportunity to convert the non-believer, a work the Christian spouse can finish up, the classic evangelical response and consensus has been, and still is, “no.” The remainder of this blog will unpack “why.”
The why centres around what the Bible clearly says. This is not an ambiguous area where there is some degree of flexibility, the Scriptures are quite clear on the matter. Let’s build from the less clear to the clear passages:
Whether you are considering marriage for the first time or are in a situation of remarriage, resolve today to be obedient to the Lord and only “marry in the Lord.” This should be the number one criterion you have in finding a spouse.
If you find yourself in a mixed-marriage, confess and ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and save your spouse. Surround yourself with a good church and strong Christian fellowship and may your brothers and sisters in Christ prayerfully support you.
As always, would love to chat if this or any blog generates an biblical or situational questions. These are difficult matters, let us wrestle with them before the Lord and with His help.
 If you cannot find a Christian spouse it is better to wait upon the Lord than settle for something less. He will honour your patience.
 Though I have met a select few upon whom the Lord had mercy and the spouse was converted, this shouldn’t fuel disobedience nor foster wishful thinking.
No I’m not referring to some sexual sin, or any other matter Christians can sometimes be silent on, but the sin of spiritual laziness or slothfulness, historically known as acedia, a sin which is rampant and largely unaddressed in contemporary Church culture.
In Cover to Cover we’re in the period of the Kings, which is characterized by this roller coaster of spirituality, sometimes a nearness to the Lord and the associated blessings and sometimes a departure from him and the related consequences.
As a pastor, zealous for the honour of the Lord, desirous that His people would glorify and enjoy Him, and that others would be led to do the same, it pains and even deeply grieves my heart when I see the sin of acedia in the world, but especially when it creeps into the visible church.
A past sermon on the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11 (July 27) taught us the vital spiritual lesson of Christian industry. The ant is our teacher on industry, initiative, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction or reward in our work. Like our Creator we were created to create. Like our God who is Spirit, we too are designed to be spiritual. Are we busy about our souls and winning and nurturing the souls of others? Do we have to be told, prompted or reminded to seek the Lord? Is He the sole purpose of our life? Are we storing up treasure in heaven? If we are like the ant—spiritually speaking—we will answer a hearty, “Yes.”
Do we take advantage of the spiritual means of grace that He has provided His people and Church?
Acedia is quite possibly the greatest sin of our age, yet its unspokeness makes it all the more dangerous.
If the seeking or worship of the Lord is our great call then not to be zealous in that pursuit, to not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is indeed criminal and injurious to our soul.
Oh the joy that Christ has in store for His people if they would but, in faith, be spiritually industrious! Acedia breaks my heart every time I see an instance of it; yet to the contrary, when I see spiritual industry my joy is made complete for the joy the other knows through their obedience to Christ's promises and commands.
If you are zealous for the Lord would you please join me in making the Psalmist’s prayer your prayer:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may delight in you? (Ps 85:6)
 From the Greek, an inert state without pain or care.
 A means of grace is a way that God has appointed through which, when trusted in faith, the believer derives His unmerited favour, or untold spiritual benefits.
One of the undesirable consequences of Covid-19 for many churches and Christians has been the infrequency of which Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist has been remembered, celebrated, observed or taken.
How regularly should I taken Communion and why?
Some Christians take it weekly, others monthly (like us—the first a.m. service and third p.m. service), some quarterly and some even yearly.
What was the practice of the early Church?
Sadly, both ordinances of Baptism and Communion can be undervalued, however, below are 9 reasons why we ought to observe the Lord’s Supper and do so regularly:
This past Lord's Day I shared about troubling developments in another Baptist organization in Ontario, the CBOQ (Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec or Convention Baptists). This is the family of churches I grew up in yet, their doctrinal drift has troubled many evangelicals.
Paul Carter offers a helpful summary of what is going on within the denomination: https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/what-in-the-world-is-going-on-with-the-cboq/
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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