By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
In our last article, we learned that the mark of the beast has to do with the corrupt nation of Rome that was prophesied by Daniel the Prophet, and with the false religions which sprang up from that nation (especially, but not only, Roman Catholicism).
The nation of Rome, and especially the religions which issued forth from it, were very antagonistic to the church which Jesus built and purchased with His blood (Matthew 16:18: Acts 20:28).
In this article, we are going to notice the significance of where John says the mark is located. He writes:
Revelation 13:16-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.
Notice that John says that the ones who take this “mark of the beast” receive it in either their right hand or on their forehead.
What could be the significance of where the mark of the beast is located?
In order to answer that question, we must remember that the Book of Revelation is a Book of symbols (Revelation 1:1-3) which are drawn primarily from the Old Testament Scriptures.
Several scholars who have carefully and meticulously examined Revelation have found many references to the Old Testament:
“It is clear that John had studied the Old Testament very thoroughly. Of the 404 verses that comprise the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation, 278 verses contain one or more allusions to an Old Testament passage. John had so thoroughly pondered the Old Testament that when it came to recording the import of his visions of God and of heaven, he expressed himself by using phrases borrowed from the prophets of Israel. Therefore, in attempting to understand John’s symbolism, we must consider not only the book itself, but also his use of the Old Testament.” (Bruce M. Metzger, Breaking The Code: Understanding The Book Of Revelation, 116-121 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Abingdon Press)
“Revelation uses the OT to a great extent. Of the 404 verses in Revelation, 278 of them make some allusion to the OT…Every book of the OT is not alluded to in Revelation. However, 24 of the 39 books are alluded to…There are a total of 348 allusions in Revelation. Ninety-five (95) of them are repeated, making the total number of different OT allusions equal 253… “It is enlightening to know which books of the OT from which most of the allusions come. Isaiah is first, Daniel second, Ezekiel and Psalms third, and Exodus fourth in number of allusions…There is a reason there are so many allusions to these particular books. Like Revelation, they were written in time of oppressive foreign domination. In addition, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel have some apocalyptic characteristics. “By knowing the historical background, one can know the particular foreign dominations which are being referred to. Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel all lived under domination of the Jews by Babylon. David wrote many of his Psalms while he was being pressured by Saul, the Philistines, or other surrounding nations. In Exodus the Israelites were under servitude to Egypt. “Of these four books, the book which has the most allusions relative to its size is Daniel. Since there are only 12 chapters in Daniel and 53 allusions to it in the book of Revelation, Daniel seems to be the most influential OT book upon the content of Revelation…The minor prophet which has the most allusions in Revelation is Zechariah. “Thirty one percent of verses in Revelation do not have some allusion to the OT…The average number of OT allusions per chapter in Revelation is 11.5.” (Sam Hester, ‘The Importance Of Old Testament Background In Studying The Book Of Revelation,’ in Sam Hester, The Book Of Revelation: Tools For Studying And Teaching The Background, 3.2.01; Henderson, TN; Hester Publications)
If we want to understand the symbols of the Book of Revelation, then we must be familiar with the teachings and content of the Old Testament Scriptures.
As Michael Heiser has pointed out:
“Basically all of this imagery comes from the Old Testament…But the real disadvantage is that we are from another time and culture. While ancient readers would have instantly caught the writer’s drift when he used a particular symbol, since we don’t share their worldview, our understanding is anything but intuitive. A deliberately cryptic book therefore becomes even more obtuse. To have any hope of understanding the book we need to first understand the meaning of the metaphors and symbols in the Old Testament and then read carefully for how John uses the Old Testament. If that sounds like work, it is.” (Michael S. Heiser, The 60 Second Scholar: 100 Insights That Illumine The Bible, 213 (Kindle Edition))
Many people approach the Book of Revelation without understanding the importance of this Old Testament background. This is one reason there is so much misunderstanding about the Bible in our day and age. If we want to understand the Word of God, we must prepare our hearts for that purpose (Ezra 7:10). We need to be diligent in our efforts to properly divide God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). When we seek God with all of our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13; Hebrews 11:6)!
With these things clearly before us, let’s turn to a study of the Old Testament Scriptures to see if there is any significance to “the right hand” and the “forehead.”
The Right Hand
A study of the Old Testament will quickly reveal that “the right hand” had extremely important symbolic significance.
The right hand often denoted strength, loyalty, and devotion to a person or cause in some way or fashion.
Let’s notice several examples.
Blessing and Favor
Sometimes, the idea of the right hand is of strength and blessing in various forms. The Old Testament sometimes used the right hand to indicate the idea of pronouncing blessing and loyalty.
One powerful example of this is from the Book of Genesis:
Genesis 48:14-18-14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
Notice what has happened in this passage. Joseph was upset because his father Israel (I.e., Jacob) had placed his right hand on Ephraim.
The placing of the right hand on the firstborn indicated greater blessing upon him. In this case, however, Jacob placed his right hand on the younger son, which was very troubling to Joseph.
The right hand indicated blessing and favor, and other passages suggest this same idea:
Psalm 16:11-You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 44:3-For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, Nor did their own arm save them; But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, Because You favored them.
Psalm 45:9-Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women; At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
Strength And Complete Loyalty
Often in the Old Testament, the idea of the “right hand” denotes strength and loyalty. It often is found in contexts where the Writers speak of how the “right hand” of God has brought deliverance to His people, exemplifying both His loyal love and His great power.
Notice some examples, paying special attention to the ideas of strength and loyalty:
Exodus 15:6-“Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces.
Exodus 15:12-You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them.
Deuteronomy 33:2-And he said: “The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came with ten thousands of saints; From His right hand Came a fiery law for them.
Job 40:14-Then I will also confess to you That your own right hand can save you.
Psalm 16:8-I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Psalm 17:7-Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them.
Psalm 18:35-You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.
Psalm 20:6-Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.
Psalm 63:8-My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 80:15-And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.
Psalm 98:1-Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
Psalm 108:6-That Your beloved may be delivered, Save with Your right hand, and hear me.
Psalm 138:7-Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.
Isaiah 41:10-Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
So in the Old Testament, the “right hand” carried the symbolic significance of favor,
blessing, strength, and loyalty.
Those who take the mark of the beast are those who are showing their favor and blessing for the beast, and who are willing to give their full strength and loyalty to his cause.
Throughout the Old Testament, the forehead had special significance of strength and steadfastness (or perhaps stubbornness) to a particular person or cause.
One classic example which illustrates this comes from the Book of Ezekiel.
The Lord had commissioned Ezekiel to go and preach to the rebellious people of Judah who had been taken captive by the nation of Babylon. God tells Ezekiel that they will often refuse to hear the Word of God because of their hardened hearts.
Ezekiel 3:7-But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted.
Yet what is truly fascinating is how God describes this stubborn mindset that they possess, and how God will prepare Ezekiel for the task at hand:
Ezekiel 3:8-9-8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads.
9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
The forehead denotes strength and, at times, refusal to surrender or submit.
Those who take the mark of the beast are those who give their favor, blessing, support and strength to the beast, and who stubbornly refuse to turn away from that decision.
There is something else to consider in the significance of the hand and the forehead from the Old Testament Scriptures.
Sometimes, the hand and the forehead are joined together to illustrate the complete and full allegiance of a person to something, especially something which is religious in nature (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18).
This reinforces the fact that those who take the mark of the beast have given themselves over to false religion.
The significance of the location of the mark of the beast is very important when the Old Testament Scriptures are carefully consulted and analyzed.
Those who take the mark of the beast are those who have given their complete loyalty, blessing, and devotion to the nation of Rome, and especially to the false religions which have spring forth from it.
These same ones stubbornly refuse to repent of this sinful decision, and will therefore pursue the beast and its teachings, even in persecuting the Lamb of God and His people when they in turn steadfastly stand for the true religion which springs from the Word of God which He brought to the world.
When this is understood, we see that the mark of the beast has nothing to do with microchips or barcodes, social security or debit cards, but rather to the choice each person makes every day.
Will we submit to the Lord God, or will we follow the beast (which ultimately receives its power from Satan-Revelation 12)?
Anytime we choose false religion over God’s Word and stubbornly refuse to repent of that, we have taken the mark of the beast.
Anytime we choose the ways of the world over the truth found in Christ Jesus and stubbornly refuse to repent of that, we have taken the mark of the beast.
The mark of the beast is not something that IS COMING: it is something which IS HERE, and which has been here since the founding of the Lord’s church.
Have you chosen throughout your life to refuse the Lord and His offer of mercy, yet now want to be saved? Then friends, I have good news for you! The God of Heaven loves you and wants you to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4). He loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you at the Cross of Calvary (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
He calls all of those who have heard His Word (Mark 16:15; Acts 18:8) to believe in Him (John 8:24), repent of sin (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (Acts 8:37), and be baptized into Him (Acts 2:38) to live faithfully to Him until death (Revelation 2:10). If you have not obeyed that simple plan of salvation, why not do so today?
Or if you have turned to the Lord but have renounced Him through sin and have left Him and the church, why not today repent of that sinfulness and turn back to Him by confessing those sins to Him as you turn back (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.
Note: We will continue our study of the Mark Of The Beast in our next article.