I’ve been watching some dramatic on-line videos sent to me by friends, looking at the latest developments in digital identity technology. They conclude that “a microchip is the mark of the beast” as described in the Book of Revelation. Believing ‘the beast’ is the future Antichrist,1 they fear that this COVID19 Pandemic will pave the way for him to use microchips as identification for a cashless society. They are also suspicious of the international ID2020 programme and the vaccination verification system proposed by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda’s Foundation, the invisible quantum dot tattoo.
What It’s Not
So, let me state right up-front, the mark of the beast is not a microchip. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and it never will be. Nor is it any form of i.d. verification so we don’t need to fear ID2020, passports, drivers’ licences, social security numbers, or our NZ government’s RealMe. Nor is it any means of payment for good and services such as EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale), credit cards, or proposed conspiracies such as the Illuminati or NESARA and GESARA.
We should, of course, always be vigilant regarding privacy issues but we need never fear that any identity or vaccination verification will be, or will pave the way for, the mark of the beast.
It’s not a literal mark. Nor can the mark of the beast be imposed on babies, like a microchip could be, or on any adult against their will; any who have accepted it can reject it whenever they want to turn their lives around. Also, it is not coming – it’s already here and has been for the last 2,000 years. We simply haven’t recognised it. Happily, every Christian has already been avoiding it simply by living as Christians should live.
Let’s begin with the text itself:
And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.2
When John wrote the Book of Revelation, he was writing to an audience who already knew a lot. They were all either Jewish, like him, or Jewish-taught Gentiles who had come to Jesus through Jewish apostles. See my article, the First Century Jewish Teenager approach to Revelation. When Paul went to evangelise a new city or region, he always began in the local synagogue, speaking to those already expecting the coming of Messiah. This included ‘God-fearers’, Gentiles who attended without becoming Jewish.3
So what would they have already known about marks on the forehead and hand?
15th Century BC
In the Exodus, God created a metaphorical ownership, a mark of His name, on the forehead and right hand of every Hebrew who would do four things:
(i) keep the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread annually (Ex 13:9)
(ii) sanctify or set apart their first-born son (Ex 13:16)
(iii) love and obey Him (Deut 6:4-8)
(iv) avoid deception (Deut 11:16-18), especially false prophets (Deut 13:1-4)
Why the forehead and right hand? Because these are the most visible uncovered parts of the body and signify autonomy4 and action.5 N.B. This mark was not and never could be literal because He forbade tattooing;6 it was voluntary and it was not permanent. Only those who chose to do these four things bore His mark and if they stopped doing them, they no longer bore His mark. Conversely, if they began doing them again, they again bore the mark.
God also numbered them, not with individual numbers but as belonging to the households of the twelve founding fathers of Israel. This is how the Book of Numbers got its name.7 In other words, every ancient Hebrew was marked and numbered as belonging to God simply by living as a Hebrew should live.
In the 2nd Century BC, some over-zealous Jews tried to make His metaphorical mark literal. They avoided tattooing by writing out the four texts and putting them into leather boxes called phylacteries or tefillin which they tied onto their foreheads and left arms. Some believe that Jesus would have worn these but Josephus records there were only about 6,000 doing this8 out of an estimated population of 2,000,000 in the 1st Century. Ironically, their literal ownership symbol marked them not as obeying God but as observing unscriptural rabbinic customs which Jesus publicly rejected.9
1st Century AD
The Mosaic Covenant’s metaphorical marks foreshadowed the 1st Century AD fulfillment. The marks of God’s ownership began to appear on the forehead and right hand of every Jew or Gentile who would do four things:
(i) trust in Jesus as the Lamb (our Passover) and remove any ‘malice and wickedness’ (our leaven) from their heart (1 Cor 5:7-8, 1 John 3:10)
(ii) sanctify or set apart Jesus as God’s ‘first-born of all creation… and from the dead’ (Col 1:15 & 18, 1 Pet 3:15)
(iii) love and obey Him (Matt 7:21-23, John 14:15)
(iv) avoid deception (Matt 24:4-5), especially false prophets (Matt 24:11, Rev 16:13)
If we live this way, we are both marked and numbered among God’s people. It isn’t hard, is it? It’s mere Christianity – every Christian is marked and numbered simply by living as a Christian should live. Most of us have been living this way for years without appreciating we bear His ownership marks.
The 144,000 also were, are, and will be sealed with the name of ‘the Lamb… the name of His Father’ on their foreheads (Rev 14:1) and numbered as belonging to the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 7:4-8). This naming and numbering is not literal nor to verify their identity nor to enable them to buy and sell.
The number is a metaphor based on the twelve founding fathers of Israel and ‘the twelve apostles of the Lamb’ who were foundational in building new Jerusalem (Rev 21:12 & 14). It takes the twelve, multiplies it by twelve, and then by 1,0000, using a common Jewish poetic device to describe large numbers.10 With John being the last alive of the Twelve, the Early Church may well have wondered, what will happen when he dies? Hearing this number would have greatly reassured them that the Twelve were only the beginning! That’s why their names are on the foundation stones.11 This number describes all the apostles/missionaries who were to come after the Twelve, who have taken the gospel to everyone who believes in Jesus over the last 2,000 years. This is why John then sees believers from ‘every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues’ (Rev 7:9, 14:6).
For a complete explanation of their seven identifying features, tribal affiliations, and apparent eccentricities, see my Gotta Serve Somebody: The Mystery of the Marks & 666.
Who Are The Two Beasts?
We have now caught up with John and his 1st Century audience regarding God’s use of marks, names, and numbers. Next, we need to establish, who exactly is the beast and what is his mark? In Revelation 13, John sees two beasts, two wild ancient spiritual forces, which were and still are wreaking havoc on the earth. We have to properly identify the beasts if we are to understand the mark of the beast.
(i) The first beast is the principality and power of the state turned feral
This spiritual entity manifests whenever any empire or nation’s governing authority changes from being a domesticated and useful beast of burden, like a mule or ox, into a ferocious predator like a wolf. It has abandoned its God-given mandate to serve God and man by upholding and maintaining justice12 and instead sought ultimate authority i.e. worship. The word comes from the old English, worth-ship, meaning to give the highest worth or value to someone or something. Worship should only ever be accorded to God.
In the Roman Empire in the 1st Century, the people were worshipping Dea Roma, the goddess who is Rome, by pouring out libations and burning incense to her. It began in 29 BC in the city of Pergamum, as John had earlier alluded to when he wrote to the disciples there.13 See my book Slouching Towards Bethlehem14 for the whole extraordinary story.
(ii) The second beast is the spirit of antichrist
It’s not the Roman Catholic Church, as many of us were taught in the 1970s. It’s much older than that, having ‘inspired’ the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo-Persians, and Greeks long before it began its work on the Romans. This spirit causes people to see their primary political or religious leader as the living image of their state.15
In John’s day, the Romans saw their emperors as the living, breathing image of their empire and that also began in Pergamum where the shrine was dedicated to Dea Roma et Augustus. Herod the Great also built one in the centre of his new port city, Caesarea Maritima, as did Philip II at Caesarea Philippi.
Notice the trade-off? The Spirit of God offered them Jesus as the living, breathing image of God16 but the spirit of antichrist sold them the counterfeit and they instead worshipped their emperors as the living, breathing image of Dea Roma, Rome.
Of course, this beast is not confined to any region or time – it has manifested in many cultures, reaching a crescendo in the 20th Century and the appalling democidal17 and genocidal outcomes of the worship of Japan’s Hirohito,18 Russia’s Stalin,[/note] Russia’s Stalin,19 Italy’s Mussolini, Germany’s Hitler,20 China’s Mao Zedong,21 Cambodia’s Pol Pot,22 Korea’s Kim dynasty.23 Tragically, all of these deaths were only some of the political consequences of our world rejecting Jesus.
The Mark of the Beast
John then sees the second beast, the spirit of antichrist, introducing his infamous mark:
And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
John used a special Greek word, charagma, seven times in Revelation to refer to this particular mark. The charagma was a Roman imperial engraving, impressed in wax to authenticate official documents – at that time, all who wanted to buy and sell in the marketplace had to present documents bearing this seal to prove that they had poured out a libation or burned incense to worship the emperor. It consisted of the name of the emperor and the year of his reign. The one pictured here was used in Alexandria in Egypt in 5-6 AD and bears the name Augustus and the number 35, the year of his reign.
In order to buy and sell in the marketplace, Roman citizens and those they ruled had to prove their allegiance to Rome and anyone who wouldn’t worship the emperor was considered to be unpatriotic. They wouldn’t starve because they could still grow their own food, raise their own livestock, and barter but they were excluded from the common places of commerce.
John’s 1st Century audience, of course, understood this well because it was their daily life but here’s John’s revelation:
Anyone who worshipped the emperor by pouring out a libation or burning incense before his image was thereby accepting his ownership and being numbered among his people
This is why John wrote:
… the mark [is] either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Rev 13:17)
Notice, it’s the beast’s name or his number, not yours. If this was a banking or credit card account, as is often taught today, it would mean you paid for nothing and he would pay for everything!
Combining the Two
Here’s where we 21st Century Gentiles miss what John did – he combined the two 1,500 year old Jewish metaphors of naming on foreheads and hands and of numbering with the literal 1st Century Roman seal, the charagma. However, his 1st Century Jewish and Jewish-taught Gentile audience would have readily understood his metaphorical marks on the forehead and hand:
- those worshipping Jesus are marked and numbered as His people
- those worshipping any of the Roman emperors were marked and numbered as his people.
It was not a sin to receive the mark – the mark only exists if you commit the sin of worshipping the emperor. Today, if someone is caught in a crime or dishonesty, we say that’s ‘a mark against them’. If it’s a one-off, we can readily forgive them but if it turns out they are serial offenders with multiple marks against them, we consider them disqualified as trustworthy because their behaviour has revealed their character. In other words, consistency matters! Similarly with God and His marks, and the beast and his mark – who do we consistently worship and obey, who do we hold to be our highest authority, give ultimate ‘worth-ship’ to in our lives, God or man? It was often a matter of life or death in the 1st Century and has been over the last 2,000 years. If it comes to us, we must remember Jesus’ encouragement:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”24
As for the number 666, some today are pointing out the MicroSoft patent number for a device to mine cryptocurrency using the wearer’s body activity is WO/2020/060606. While this sounds deadly serious, it seems the patent number was created as a joke by someone at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Joke or deadly serious, this too will never be the mark of the beast. In the 1st Century, the number 666 had a very clear meaning but that is another story, too complex for here because we have made such a mess of it all. I explain it in Gotta Serve Somebody: The Mystery of the Marks & 666.
In Stalin’s USSR, Mussolini’s Italy, Hirohito’s Japan, Hitler’s Germany, Mao Zedong’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Ceaucescu’s Romania, Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea – in any empire or nation where an antichrist leadership emerged – their citizens and those they ruled had to prove their allegiance to that emperor and anyone who wouldn’t worship that emperor was considered to be unpatriotic, especially Jews and Christians. They were excluded from many areas.
There were, however, special privileges for the nomenclature, the Politburo, members of the Nazi or Communist Party, the loyalists to the leader. They were able to access special shops and supplies, housing, education, holiday resorts, and high political offices. The rest of the citizens had to make do with whatever they could find, or starve as tens of millions did in the Ukraine and China.
In none of these antichrist regimes was there a literal mark on anyone’s forehead or hand but it quickly became apparent who was who from their lifestyles.
There is only one long-term antidote to totalitarian regimes like these – as George Orwell’s Animal Farm illustrated so well, violent revolutions only temporarily relieve the problem because they can usher in another totalitarian regime – and that’s liberal democracy, the hidden kingdom of God. But that too is another story. See my article, Staying Free.
Other ideologies may yet put forth new candidates for emperor-worship in the 21st Century, with only a few of these regimes surviving and apparently moderating.25 I therefore see Islam as the prime and increasing threat in its veneration of Muhammad. Over its 1,400 years of existence, Islam has grown to some 1.8 billion adherents or 1/4 of the earth’s population in 2015; it controls 57 or 1/3 of the nations and its death toll far overshadows all of the above, killing an estimated 60-80 million Hindus between 1000-1500 AD26 alone in what historian Will Durant called, ‘the bloodiest story in history’.27 I knew none of this in the 1970s and I find few today who do.
Although the vast majority of Muslims are moderate,28 of course, over the last one hundred years non-moderate Muslims have nevertheless killed another 6 million.29 I detail all of this in Slouching Towards Bethlehem: The Rise of the Antichrists.
Who is Islam’s living image of the empire? Whoever is held to be the truest voice or interpreter of Muhammad. In the ISIS Caliphate, it was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; for the Shi’ites, who comprise 15% of Muslims, it is Iran’s Supreme Leader, Imam Ali Khamenei. The Sunnis, who make up over 80% of the Islamic empire, don’t have one at the moment but are waiting for a Caliph, i.e. the successor to Muhammad, so watch this space…
What is the mark of being or becoming a Muslim? Again, there is no literal mark on the forehead or hand. Instead, there are Five Pillars of Islam, actions you must keep doing. The First is to say the Shahada:
“There is no true god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger/Apostle of God.”
In other words, declare that Muhammad has replaced Jesus as God’s Apostle.30 The Greek prefix anti- means not only opposed to but also ‘instead of’ so to say this is to pronounce that Muhammad was/is the the 7th Century’s antichrist. They are then to keep the other Four Pillars of Islam: pray five times a day towards Mecca, give alms, fast, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. That’s it – in John’s words, they now bear the mark of the beast on their forehead and right hand.
We who love Jesus must therefore love, pray for and reach out to any Muslim neighbours and win them to Him.
(i) The mark of the beast is not a microchip.
It wasn’t, it isn’t, and it never will be. Nor is the mark any form of identification verification because it’s not about who you are but all about the political or religious leader that you’re being tempted to worship. That’s why it is ‘either the name of the beast or the number of his name’ (Rev 13:17).
(ii) God’s marks always were and are metaphorical, not literal.
Some 3,500 years ago, He required the Hebrews to love and obey Him and observe particular festivals. It was their ensuing behaviour that marked them on the forehead and hand and numbered them as His people. Then 2,000 years ago, this metaphorical mark began to appear on all Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus who love and obey Him and fulfill His metaphorical festivals.
(iii) The mark of the beast
In John’s day, he saw that any who worshipped the Roman emperors were being similarly metaphorically marked but with a charagma on their foreheads and hands and numbered as belonging to the beast, Rome, and its living image, the emperor. Today, anyone who obeys any political or religious leader rather than God are marked and numbered as his or her people.
(iv) It is not about to come.
It’s already here and has been for the last 2,000 years – we simply haven’t recognised it. Happily, every Christian has already been avoiding it simply by living as Christians should live.
(v) It’s not a sin to receive the mark – the mark only exists if you commit the sin
That sin is to ‘worship’ a political or religious leader so we need never fear receiving any form of i.d. verification, even if offered as an implanted microchip as we do with our pets.
(vi) It can’t be imposed on babies.
The mark requires personal and willing obedience to the beast or the image of the beast so, unlike a microchip or literal mark, it can’t be forced on any baby, child, or adult against their will.
(vii) Privacy issues still matter.
None of what I’m saying should be construed as saying privacy doesn’t matter – we should always be vigilant regarding any invasion of our privacy. I’m simply saying that even invasions of privacy will never be, or pave the way for, the mark of the beast.
For any who believe that God has been showing them the mark of the beast is as these on-line videos claim, I say now by the Spirit of God and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:
A microchip is not the mark of the beast nor is any form of identity or vaccination verification. It never was and it never will be.
For any who believe the Scriptures teach that it is, or even that it might be:
The mark of the beast is not about who you are but about who he is and how you are living.
To any of my friends and co-workers who have been promoting these videos, if you find this rebuttal convincing, please pass it on. Attribution: Graeme Carlé, www.emmausroad.org.nz
Phylactery: By David Shankbone – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6320335
Cartoon by: John Stringer for Emmaus Road Ministries
Stalin: By U.S. Signal Corps photo. – http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a33351http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/thumbnail381.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=538831
Mussolini: By Martianmister and Vps – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27591722
Hirohito: By Unknown author – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89154618
Hitler: By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5783006
Mao:By неизвестный (unknown) – http://sarbaharapath.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mao2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70869121
Pol Pot: By Unknown author – http://fototeca.iiccr.ro/picdetails.php?picid=45014X1X4, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11928183
Ceaucescu: By Unknown author – http://fototeca.iiccr.ro/picdetails.php?picid=40892X16X27, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10841984
Kim Il-Sung: By Hulton Archive/Getty Images – https://www.thoughtco.com/kim-il-sung-195634, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68662641
- I don’t – in the text, the second beast is the spirit of antichrist which will eventually manifest as the Antichrist but this spirit was already at work when John was writing – ‘you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared’ (1 John 2:18, emphasis added) – and this makes a huge difference to what John was saying to his 1st Century audience.
- Rev 13:16-17
- See, for example, Paul’s message to John’s audience in Asia Minor in Acts 13:16, 26, 43, 46-48.
- Deut 33:16 cf. Ezek 33:4
- 2 Sam 24:14
- Lev 19:28
- Num 1:2-15
- Antiquities, 7:2:4
- Mark 7:1-8
- cf. ‘there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war’ (Num 31:5); ‘the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand’ (Rev 9:16)
- Rev 21:14
- Rom 13:1-7
- Rev 2:13
- pp. 97-100.
- The 15th Century Protestant Reformers rightly recognised that Roman Catholicism was fulfilling this in regard to the Popes in their day but since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Popes have renounced the triple-tiered crown. For more on this and the Protestants’ own folly, see Slouching Towards Bethlehem, pp. 60-65, 141-142.
- Col 1:15
- Term coined by Rudolph Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Hawaii, to describe the phenomenon of ‘death by government’ in peacetime. STB, p. 121.
- 17,298,000 dead. STB, p. 126
- 61,911,000 dead, with Stalin alone responsible for 43,000,000. Ibid, p. 123.
- 18,683,900. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org, 29 Nov, 2019.
- 76,702,000 dead. STB, p. 127.
- 1,700,000 dead. Ibid.
- 4,100,000 dead. Ibid.
- Matt 10:28
- We should still keep an eye on Xi Jin-ping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and the Kim dynasty in North Korea.
- Ibid. p. 159.
- Story of Civilization, Vol I, New York; Our Oriental Heritage, 1972, p. 459.
- A PEW Research survey of Muslims (2013) reported that 27% believe apostates should be executed, 39% believe honour-killings are justified for women caught in immorality, and over a third of young Muslim men in France, UK, and the USA believe suicide-bombing of civilians is justified.
- 1,000,000 Armenians (1915-1916), 2,000,000 Hindus (1971); 1,900,000 Sudanese (1983-2011); 1,000,000 fellow-Muslims in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). STB, pp. 162-165. More recently, some 600,000, mostly Muslim, in the ISIS Caliphate attempt.
- Heb 3:1