13:16,17 THE MARK OF THE BEAST
“And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or on their foreheads; and that no one could buy or sell, except he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16,17). For nearly 2000 years there has been intense curiosity and imaginative speculation about the mark of the beast. Brands or tattoos have been suggested, and in recent years attention has focused on an imbedded microchip. While any of these could happen (and Satan certainly could arrange for a counterfeit to draw attention from the real issues), the scriptures give significant clues as to the true nature of the Mark of the Beast
A correct understanding is not simply a matter of satisfying idle curiosity. The most fearful warning in all of scripture is given against receiving the mark of the beast: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead, or on his hand, he also shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:9,10).
One important characteristic is that it is “on their right hand or on their foreheads.” The first century Christian readers of Revelation would have certainly remembered that Moses told the children of Israel, “Obey my commandments which I command you today…You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 11:13, 18, 6:8). In these verses we see that it is God’s "commandments" that were to be a "sign," bound to their hand or forehead. Although ultra-orthodox Jews have taken this commandment literally and made little boxes with a copy of the law inside and fastened them to their wrists and on their foreheads, the real issue is “in your heart and in your soul.”
In the new covenant God promises, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). From the heart proceed thoughts (symbolized by the forehead) and actions (symbolized by the hand). From this text in Deuteronomy we can assume that the beast will try to replace God’s laws with his laws, and his antichrist laws will be reflected in the minds and hearts (forehead), or at least in the actions (hand) of those who submit to the beast.
The mention of the hand and forehead is also found in Exodus 13, and gives another clue as to the specific nature of the mark. Moses reviewed with the people their experience when they “went out of
Putting these two verses together with the fact that Satan always tries to counterfeit what God does, an obvious possibility would be a counterfeit of the Sabbath, which is a part of the law of God and a memorial of creation and redemption. A change of the Sabbath would be expected since the agenda of the beast, as presented in Daniel 7, is “to change times and laws” (Daniel 7:25). The Sabbath is the only part of God’s Ten Commandment law that has to do with time. By changing God’s law, Satan tries to prove that he has greater authority than God who gave the law, and this is his ultimate goal—“the man of sin…opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).
God’s law is eternal and unchangeable, so the beast can only “think” to change it. But with the change of the Sabbath to Sunday, a change without scriptural support, he has managed to deceive the vast majority of the Christian world. This, of course, is not what it means to receive the mark of the beast. People who keep Sunday because of custom or because they have been taught that it is the “Lord’s Day” have not had a clear teaching about the fourth commandment, and God does not consider people guilty of breaking laws that they do not know about.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> At any rate, it is the image of the beast which “causes all…to receive the mark of the beast,” and the image of the beast has not yet been set up. However, when the Sabbath becomes an international issue and the false Sabbath is effectively exposed as unscriptural, those people who still choose to obey the beast rather than the Bible in order to escape punishment and sanctions (“no one may buy or sell”) will receive the mark of the beast.
The pressure to conform will not be from economic sanctions alone. “He…[will] cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Revelation 13:15). This death decree is the final manifestation of the “abomination of desolation” (see 10: The Abomination of Desolation), and according to Jesus, it is a signal for believers to “flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15,16).
Continue to next section: OF MAN’S DEVISING
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> “Sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13).