Sunday, 28 March 2021
and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Revelation 13:17
For context, the verse should be taken with the previous verse –
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
“He” is referring to the beast out of the earth. Or it may refer to the leader of this beast if it is the false prophet to be introduced later. Either way, he has the authority and power to cause all people under his authority to receive a mark on the right hand or the forehead. This mark is to be an identifier so “that no one may buy or sell” without the mark of the beast.
In past ages, there was always a way of getting around such things. However, with the advent of digital money, along with all of the other advances in digital selling, accounting, inventory keeping, and so on, such a scenario seems not only possible, but likely. Government has become more than a controlling factor in the lives of people. Rather, it has become an all-controlling overload. Freedom is a word that no longer has the same meaning it did even a short time ago.
For those under the scope of the authority of the beast, they will either take the mark or they will be completely unable to buy or sell anything. As buying and selling includes pretty much every aspect of physical human existence, it means that life will become almost completely impossible without taking this mark.
As this commentary is typed (the year 2021), test cases for such a system are actively in the works. The world of 2020 faced a supposed biological crisis with the COVID-19 sniffles. Entire economies have been placed into varied levels of lockdown, and certain rights and privileges have been granted to those who obediently have taken a vaccine. For those who have not, privileges have been denied, and threats and accusations have come against them from associates, friends, and even family members.
One can see that if such a scenario is extended to total authority over the people, how quickly those with the mark will rat out those who refuse it. When the mark is mandated, all general commerce will cease without the explicit approval of this beast. As John says, “except one who has the mark or the name of the beast.”
There is a variation in some manuscripts –
except one who has the mark or the name of the beast (NKJV)
unless he had the mark—the name of the beast (BSB)
The word “or” would mean they are different things. Without the “or,” the second clause would define the first. The latter seems more likely. The mark is an identifier on the person that carries the name of the beast as a mark of approval. Having this identifier means a rejection of any other system, and a complete allegiance to the authority of the beast. Whether the scope of this particular beast is worldwide, or only in the land of Israel is debatable. Yet, the beast’s total authority is not in question. Each person will be marked with the name of the beast, “or the number of his name.”
The meaning of this is open to endless speculation. The actual number will be given in the next verse, but what relation the number is to the name is currently unknown. One possibility is the assignment of numbers to a name based on the characters of the alphabet. This is known as gematria.
In gematria, a specific value is assigned to each letter. From there, the total is added up. The name of Jesus in Greek gematria is, interestingly, 888. A second-century writing says the following, confirming the use of gematria –
“He will come upon earth clothed with flesh like mortal men. His name contains four vowels and two consonants: two of the former being sounded together. And I will declare the entire number. For the name will exhibit to incredulous men eight units, eight tens, and eight hundreds.”
Gematria is one possibility of what the number of the beast is. However, there are innumerable other ways of coming up with a particular number. As the beast is future to us now, as its name is unknown, and as the means of determining the numerical value of the name is unclear at this time, speculation on what the number is could go on and on – and it does. But each speculation is just that, speculation.
Life application: Jesus’ words of Matthew 10 will take on a whole new context in the tribulation period. Not only will people shun one another over the name of Jesus, but they will probably be rewarded for betraying those who refuse the mark of the beast. He said –
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
Regardless of whether the mark of the beast is visible or tangible or not, it will represent an allegiance to the beast. It will be based on a vow of allegiance and a mental assertion that this is the only right way. Because this beast is filled with the power of Satan and because it will perform false signs, vowing allegiance to it is the same as making a vow to Satan.
As the world already falls under the devil’s sway, this vow merely solidifies what is already true – that those who make this vow have no part in the promises of God; they can never be saved. This will become evident in the chapters ahead.
If such a vow of allegiance is refused, it will, in essence, lead to death from starvation. At a minimum, it would lead to a network of crime simply to feed oneself. Those who refuse the mark are destined for terrible times, but if they hold fast to the end by refusing to show allegiance to the beast, then they can be saved.
It is important to note that this type of system has never been fulfilled in past history, and therefore it can only mean that these verses are speaking of the future. Only a view of Scripture that says that there is still a plan and a purpose for Israel after the rapture of the church makes any sense.
In order to deny this, verses must be “spiritualized” to such an extent that their meaning and context actually say nothing worthwhile at all. But when looked at through the lens of God’s promises to the people of Israel from the Old Testament as coming to fulfillment at a future date, the entire scenario not only retains sense, but the Bible comes into clarity of focus. God has not rejected His people Israel, but before Jesus returns to them, many difficult times and many hard choices will have to be made.
For all who are wise, they will – right now – pay heed. They will turn their hearts towards God’s Gift of grace and mercy. They will turn to JESUS.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the great abundance and blessing You provide to the people You have created. You open Your hand and fill us with good things. Your grace is evident with each meal we eat. Thank You for Your kindness and for the many blessings you provide each day. Amen.