By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Several people that I work and study with have expressed their fear about “the mark of the beast.”
One night in a Bible study at a local Mexican restaurant, a lady we were studying with explained to my wife and I over a bowl of those wonderful nachos and salsa, “Oh, the mark of the beast is Social Security. Everyone in America who has ever had a social security number has taken the mark of the beast.”
One elderly gentleman I studied with at Golden Corral in London Kentucky was adamant that the mark of the beast was the legalization of homosexual marriage in America. He told me over a Dr. Pepper and the salad bar, “A friend of mine at the State Department explained it all to me. America has begun following the Beast, and the sign of it is homosexual marriage becoming the law of the land.”
Years ago in West Virginia at a Bible study in a local Subway, a young witch I was studying with at a local eatery explained to me that the mark of the beast was modern technology as embodied in modern day debit cards. “Everyone who uses a debit card,” she explained to me matter-of-factly, “has taken the mark of the beast.”
Recently in Hazard Kentucky and the surrounding area, several friends I have studied the Word of God with in various restaurants have expressed to me their trepidation and fear that the mark is going to be a microchip that everyone will be forced to have implanted under Obama’s administration. One told me, “Mark, Obama is the antichrist, and the microchip will be the mark of the beast: Don’t take the mark, Mark!”
Now, at least three things stand out to me about all of these conversations.
First, most of my Bible studies are over lunch or supper.
Second, many of my friends are very sincere in their apprehension of the mark of the beast and their desire to be true to God.
Third, there is a great deal of speculation about the subject of the mark of the beast.
What are we to make of all of these things?
Fortunately, the Bible provides us the answers to what the mark of the beast is, and how this all applies to our lives. By using the clues provided for us in Scripture, we can come to understand just what exactly the mark of the beast is. In the next several articles in this series, we will examine these clues one by one to solve this great mystery.
In this article, we will look at the first real clue in identifying the mark: what is the “beast” that the “mark” is identified with?”
The Passage Of The Beast
The mark of the beast passage that we will be studying comes from the Book of Revelation, chapter 13. The Apostle John writes:
Revelation 13:16-18-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. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
The context of Revelation 13 is very important to understand this first clue.
Earlier in the chapter, John had seen two “beasts.” Of the first, he wrote these words:
Revelation 13:1-2-Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Later, John saw a second “beast” which came up from the land. He writes:
Revelation 13:11-12-11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
So the second “beast” was connected with the first, and through its’ actions the first “beast” was worshipped.
Turning To The Old Testament
One of the most important factors in trying to decipher the Book of Revelation is in using the Old Testament Scriptures. John continually quotes from and alludes to the Old Testament in the Book of Revelation, and if we do not use the Old Testament Scriptures, we will not understand what he is trying to teach us throughout the Book of Revelation.
We also need to remember that the Apostle John uses a great deal of symbolic language in the Book of Revelation (Revelation1:1-3). Attempting to liberalize a symbol will only succeed in creating confusion and in twisting the intent and lessons of this part of sacred Scripture.
With these thing in mind, please notice with me the specifics of the first “beast” that John described. It comes up out of the sea, and it is associated with a leopard, a bear, and a lion.
Is there anywhere in the Old Testament that a similar image is found?
Yes, there is.
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, the Prophet beholds a vision of four “beasts.” The first is a LION with eagle’s’ wings; the second is a BEAR devouring tree ribs; the third is a LEOPARD with four heads and four wings; and the fourth is a horrible and terrible beast that is characterized especially by TEN horns.
Please notice the clear connections between what Daniel prophesies and what John describes in Revelation 11 as the first “beast.” All the images are present: leopard, bear, and lion.
Daniel is given three “keys”which explain what these “beasts” represent.
KEY ONE: BEAST= KING
Daniel 7:17-Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.
KEY TWO: KING = KINGDOM
Daniel 7:23-“Thus he said: ‘The fourth BEAST shall be A fourth KINGDOM on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.
KEY THREE: HORN = KING = KINGDOM
Daniel 7:24-The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.
This prophecy of Daniel was actually a prophecy of four great world empires!!
Do we have any idea which kingdoms Daniel and John are describing?
Indeed, we do.
The first kingdom is characterized as a lion with eagle’s wings. This was the description that the Prophets gave to the nation of Babylon. Observe:
“The lion and eagle are both symbols of Babylon (Jeremiah 49:19; 50:17, 44; 48:40; 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3, 12). The wings represent speed; the rapidity of the Babylonian conquest of the old Assyrian Empire.” (Emanuel B. Daugherty, A Commentary On The Book Of Daniel, 134; Bethlehem, W.V.)
The study of archaeology has yielded further evidences of this as well:
“Second, statues of winged lions, which are believed to have been representative of the empire, have been found in the ruins of Babylon, and lions adorned the famous Ishtar Gate. Although the text does not specifically interpret the rest of the verse, the meaning of the symbolism would naturally be expected to be found in the descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar (who embodied the Babylonian Empire) presented elsewhere in the book.” (Stephen R. Miller, The New American Commentary Volume 18: Daniel-An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture, 197 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
The identification of this first “beast” with Babylon is easy to make.
The next kingdom to arise which defeated Babylon was the Medo-Persian Alliance. They are here depicted as a “bear.” The Medes and the Persians joined forces together and were able to overcome Babylon and the two nations that had joined together with Babylon.
Ken Johnson has well pointed out:
“The bear with one side higher than the other represented the combined empire of the Medes and Persians. This beast corresponds to the chest and arms of silver. Babylon, in fear of Cyrus, form ed a coalition with the kingdoms of Egypt and Lydia . T he se are represented by the three ribs in the bear’s mouth , which proved to be no match for the armies of Cyrus. Lydia fell to the Persians in 544 BC ; Babylon , in 537 BC ; and Egypt , in 523 BC .” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Book Of Daniel, 58 (Kindle Edition))
The next kingdom is that which is described as a leopard with four heads and four wings, and was the nation of Greece led by Alexander the Great.
In Scripture, a leopard is noted for speed (cf. Habakkuk 1:8). Historians have always marveled at the speed with which the Greek leader, Alexander the Great, conquered the world. Especially interesting here is the fact that the leopard has four “heads.” Throughout Scripture, the idea of the “head” of something suggests leadership (cf. Isaiah 7:8-9; Ephesians 1:22-23).
Amazingly, when Alexander died, the kingdom of Greece was divided up four ways (between his four generals-Lysimachus, Seleucus, Ptolemy Soter, and Cassander).
The fourth “beast” that followed the Grecians was that of Rome. Notice that Daniel watches this kingdom trampling the saints of God (Daniel 7:7), which is an apt description of the nation of Rome in its persecutions and attacks upon the church.
Yet what is truly astonishing about this passage is that Daniel foresees how this fourth kingdom will be characterized by ten “horns,” which are identified as “kings.” Remembering that in this context a “King” stands for a kingdom, this means that ten kingdoms would spring up from the fourth empire.
Amazingly, the nation of Rome did split into ten separate kingdoms:
“When the imperial Roman Empire collapsed in A.D. 476 (the classic date for the fall of Rome), it fell because ten smaller nations—represented by the “ten horns” emerging from the fourth beast’s head—swept into Europe from the north to parcel up the empire. These ten nations were the Vandals, the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, the Bergundians, the Suevi, the Lombards, the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, and the Alamanni, which eventually became the modern nations of Europe.” (Steve Wohlberg, Decoding The Mark Of The Beast, 128-133 (Kindle Edition); Coldwater, MI; Remnant Publications)
The Roman Empire was divided up into ten primary kingdoms, just as Daniel foresaw.
Where We Are So Far
So far we have learned that the mark of the beast is associated with two “beasts” which John shows us ties in directly with the prophecy of Daniel seven. The identifying beasts are all the same (the bear, leopard, and lion), although they are shown in reverse order (John was living in the days of the last “beast” of Daniel’s vision, so he is looking in reverse order at the kingdoms as opposed to Daniel, who sees them still as being in the future). What’s’ more, both Daniel and John indicate the fact that the fourth kingdom will be characterized by ten “horns” (or nations), and we have seen that the nation of Rome did indeed disintegrate into ten smaller kingdoms nearly four hundred years after John.
However, both Daniel and John discuss another power which would spring up from the Roman Empire. Daniel calls it the “little horn,” and John identifies this power in such a way that it is clear that it somehow gives glory and honor to the nation of Rome. Furthermore, we learn that this power was primarily religious in nature.
How do we know this?
First, we are told that this “little horn” would attempt to try and change “times and law” (Daniel 7:25). This was a phrase used throughout the Old Testament to have usual reference to Divine law (cf. Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; Daniel 6:5, 7, 12; Ezra 7:12, 21; Nehemiah 2:6).
Second, we are told that this “beast” would be like a lamb:
Revelation 13:11-Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
Throughout all ages and countries, the lamb has been a symbol of religion.
Third, this beast is concerned with the subject of worship, again showing that it is primarily a religious power:
Revelation 13:12-14-12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
When all of these clues are added up, we see that this beast is primarily a religious power.
Next, we see that this is a religious power which is opposed to Christ and to His people, for we are told that it persecutes the saints of God:
Daniel 7:25-25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.
Finally, one last clue to consider about this “little horn” is that it would destroy three of the remnants which were formed from the Roman Empire. Daniel tells us:
Daniel 7:8-8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
Now, adding all of these things together, was there ever a power that:
Sprang up from the Roman Empire?
Sprang up from the Roman Empire after the Empire had divided up into ten kingdoms?
Was a religious power?
Persecuted the people of God?
Defeated three of the remnants of the Roman Empire which opposed it?
There was such a power!
Only one “beast” fits the bill for all of these characteristics; the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.
Yet what three remnants of the Roam Empire did the papacy destroy?
“Shortly after A.D. 476, “three” of the “ten horns” resisted the growing political influence of the papacy, and one by one, they were systematically “plucked up by the roots” and destroyed. The Heruli were wiped out in A.D. 493, the Vandals in A.D. 534, and the Ostrogoths were eliminated in A.D. 538. No modern European nation can trace its roots back to these “three” powers. They’re gone. And so far, these historical clues (taken together) can apply to no other organization except the Roman Church.” (Steve Wohlberg, Decoding The Mark Of The Beast, 158 (Kindle Edition); Goldwater, MI; Remnant Publications)
The mark of the beast has to do with the nation of Rome and with the false religions which sprang forth from this wicked nation, especially the religion of Roman Catholicism.
In our next article in this series, we will learn the significance of where the “mark of the beast” is located (i.e., the right hand and forehead).
Friends, I hope by this point you are considering some of the remarkable evidences that we have learned from the subjects of prophecy and fulfillment in this article. Daniel the Prophet was able to see the rise of four huge world empires, and correctly foretold several important and detailed elements of these kingdoms. This factor of Bible prophecy shows that the Bible Prophets were truly inspired of the Holy Spirit and spoke and wrote the truth of God. Will you today heed their Word?
The God of Heaven is separated from mankind because of the sins and transgressions of mankind. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Yet He loves you and I so very much that He made a plan by which we could be saved and redeemed from sin. Our own works cannot save us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Knowing this, the Son of God came and died for our sins on the Cross of Calvary (Romans 5:8). He died for us, paying for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Only through Him may we be saved (John 14:6).
Having heard His Word (Romans 10:17; Acts 18:8), will you not today believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24; Acts 16:31), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), confess Him as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6:12), and be baptized into Him to have your sins forgiven (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20-21)?
If you are a child of God who has left the Lord, will you not today repent and confess your sins to the Lord and be restored to Him (1 John 1:9; James 5:16)?
The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.