Table of Contents
The Mark of the Beast – Is it a Physical or a Spiritual Mark?
The Symbol of 666
The Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13 looms large like a cloud over our discussion of the end times. It’s spurred theories, taken shape as an object to fear, and even acquired traction as something to reference within popular culture. Of course, many have assumed that the Mark, with its Name and Number, is associated with the person of the antichrist.
We will consider none of those theories as we will focus on the concept about people being caught up in deception. We will explore how the Mark is related to the Image of the Beast.
What is the mark of the beast mean? First, let’s examine biblical mentions of marking, whether for believers or unbelievers. After we examine contextual passages, we should be able to determine the Mark of the Beast and its Number, 666.
Revelation 13:18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
We are ready to go back in time to learn about previous markings in Scripture. The first mark we notice is found in Genesis 4:15, where Cain was marked by God to be protected. Marks on the doorposts were also used at the original Passover as a means of protection.
In another account, there is a command given in Exodus 13:15b-16.
… all the firstborn of my sons I redeem. It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.
The meaning here is that this symbolic mark is like a reminder of something sanctified by God. Israel was commanded to set apart their firstborn so they can remember what the Lord has done. These were not literal marks, like the branding of an animal. The firstborn sons are figurative marks to remind Israel of God’s redemption.
There are different meanings and uses of marking as we have seen. Depending on the case, marks are described as literal imprints or metaphorical identifications, for separation or protection. In all these cases, God used marks to segregate people for His purpose. Marks can be physical or spiritual symbols that take on particular relevance according to who is marked.
Sealing is another figurative term like a non-physical marking.
2 Corinthians 1:22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Now we can look deeper into marking good and evil people. We read of examples in Ezekiel like those in Revelation.
Chapter 9 … “Bring near the executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” And behold, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.
And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”
And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark…”
“Ah, Lord GOD! Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” … “As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.”
There is good news a little later in Ezekiel 11. This is comparable to Revelation where a remnant of the world makes it through the trials of the Great Tribulation Period.
Chapter 11 … “Ah, Lord GOD! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?”
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the LORD; to us this land is given for a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD.”
Revelation 7 reports sealing of those who will be protected during the tribulation at the end of this age. An angel says in verse 3, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
This is like the passage we read in Ezekiel 9. God always protects His remnant of believers, whether by marking or sealing. However, He also establishes marks for the destruction of unbelievers. Marks can be good or bad.
Perhaps the most important aspect to know about marking in the Bible is that it relates to believing and trusting in God (or not) in periods of great judgment. The marks play a critical role in contrasting good and evil. Impending judgment follows markings that identify believers for protection during a judgment period or identify unbelievers for destruction when God’s wrath is poured out.
There are certainly a lot of symbols in the Book of Revelation. When we consider the Mark of the Beast from a spiritual perspective, we see people in alignment with the devil through his Beast system. There are few convincing arguments from the biblical context that there needs to be a physical mark like a tattoo on people. Ezekiel 9 reports an “invisible” mark that only angels can see. The Mark of the Beast in Revelation could be any identifier that shows allegiance to the Beast system. People will know who a follower of the Beast is.
Just as with Ezekiel 9, the Mark of the Beast mentioned in Revelation 13 can be symbolic to indicate spiritual allegiance. The Mark on the hands of unbelievers may signify actions against God, while marks upon foreheads signify conscious decisions that people will make to worship the devil’s Beast system directly.
Revelation 13:16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead,
There will be direct and indirect worship of the devil by the people during the Great Tribulation Period who will rebel against God. Direct worship is associated with the Name of the Beast, while indirect worship relates to the Number of the Beast (Revelation 13:17). It seems that the majority will be part of the Number of the Beast and follow this system through compelling means of deception. Some people will openly worship the devil’s system of the Beast, even if they do not think they are worshiping the devil himself. They will probably think the antichrist is a savior at first, not a nemesis.
The main point to consider about markings of this kind is that they are mostly used by angels during periods of judgment to separate people. The end times are certainly a time of judgment upon the earth, so markings would be expected. Angels will know the separation between believers and unbelievers, but what about humanity? What will we physically observe during the Great Tribulation Period?
If we consider the role of the false prophets in Revelation 13, we will connect the Image of the Beast to its Mark. The Mark is the brand of the Image, while the Image is people. These people will be identified with the Beast system. They will spread the power of the Beast through any controls necessary, such as social credits, digital passports or central bank digital currency.
Taking the Mark is to be in allegiance with the devil. It goes beyond simply buying and selling. God is mainly concerned with sin and lawlessness in all forms. The ability to buy or sell stems from rebellion against God. Most people will not repent.
Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons…
Summary – Being marked on the hands symbolizes the actions of following the Beast. Being marked on the head symbolizes direct agreement with the devil’s Beast system. Those who take the Name of the Beast are those who have the head Mark. These people openly worship the devil or his Beast system. The people who are marked on the hands are the same as those counted in the Beast’s Number. They probably account for most people of the end times. They will unintentionally worship the Beast by following the rebellion. These people may bow down to the devil’s lies without full knowledge.
The false prophets have authority to “make” people worship the devil’s system as we notice in Revelation 13:11-17. The symbol of the False Prophet is the 2nd Beast. The false prophets of Matthew 24:24 are the same people as the False Prophet of Revelation 13.
The False Prophet –
- makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast,
- cause(s) those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.
- causes all…to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark.
How do false prophets cause people to follow the Beast? Think of a desperate situation where you will need to follow government orders in order to function in a fallen society to have easy access to food (if you have the Mark). Forcing people to buy and sell through a non-optional system created by these false prophets will be a powerful way that they can enforce the Mark. People will do almost anything to get what they need to survive in the new society so they will comply with the Mark.
People often rebel against the force of extreme government control, but there will probably be a more subtle method (lies). It will be easier to “sell” the message if the masses agree in a widespread rebellion that begins with deception. The Image of the Beast will grow with peer pressure to take the Mark. Large groups may think they are saving lives by signing up for the system, but in fact they will love sin more than truth (Daniel 12:10, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
The impetus for the creation of the Mark follows signs and wonders, not solely by governmental brute force of the antichrist and world government. There will be two areas of focused pressure – the false prophets will have a job to attract the masses, while the government leaders will war against the saints. Believers of the true God will be vilified by all sides, from armies using force to the average person telling the government that their believing neighbor does not comply with the Beast system.
Former friends, neighbors, and family members will help send believers to death or captivity. Is this too complicated to believe? It has happened before. Some people want to survive more than doing the right thing.
The Mark of the Beast Explained
What is the Mark of the Beast? We learn the answer from the original Greek as we find by examining Revelation 13:17 … the name of the beast or the number of its name.
The Name of the Beast probably means open worship of the Beast as we discussed previously. This is not forced because some people will choose this intentional path. They already believe satan’s lead, worship of self. The main warning at the end of Revelation 13 is about the Number of the Beast, not the Name. Humanity will rebel against God on a grand scale because of the hint that the Number provides.
Revelation 13:18 let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
There are three crucial terms in Revelation 13:18. One is “calculate” as found in ancient Greek. It means to cast a vote or decide, not the use of a calculator or gematria. Believers can determine what the Number means.
Polybius, Plutarch, Palaeph., Anthol.; commonly and indeed chiefly in the middle in the Greek writings to give one’s vote by casting a pebble into the urn; to decide by voting.
– Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
Another important term is that the Mark of the Beast can be counted as mankind – it is the total number of unbelievers on earth according to the Greek. Instead of rendering the Greek to English as “a man,” it can be translated as simply “man.” This means that the passage does not necessarily refer to a person like the antichrist as most people assume.
The final crucial term is the Number. It correlates to mankind, not the antichrist.
What Does 666 Mean?
The Number of the Beast relates to its Image. 666 is a distinct symbol of the Beast and the people that compose its Image. The role of the False Prophet is to attract others, whereby the replication of the Beast’s Image into more and more followers advances that goal.
666 could be the total symbolic number of people who decide to rebel against God and follow the Beast as the Image of its rebellious nature. Using force by wars or threats to be part of the Beast is not as important as God letting people reject Him through their sin nature.
It boils down to free will in this case. Unbelievers will choose to make their own path or to be as god, while believers will reject free will and receive the gift of God’s will (grace).
The issue at hand is that for centuries the Number of the Beast has been associated with the antichrist. This forces the use of gematria or Bible codes in an attempt to derive the meaning. However, the Mark of the Beast is much easier for us to understand based upon letting the original Greek breathe freely.
We should look again at the three important terms to consider in verses 17 and 18 of Revelation Chapter 13.
Relationships of Keywords
Man – This means all unbelievers. Man can be plural for mankind.
Calculate – This means people who are righteous and who have understanding determine what the Number of the Beast means. This ties into Daniel 12:10 with the same concept that only the righteous will understand the Great Tribulation Period. If we are wise, we will let the Bible interpret itself. Revelation 13:18 states the Number of the Beast represents the total number of unbelievers of humanity in our view.
Number – The total number of unbelievers is derived from the symbol of 666. This falls short of the symbol of 1000, which is a complete number (i.e., God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, meaning all cattle on all hills of the earth – see Psalm 50:10). Man will fall short of completion by trying to save himself during the last days of this age. Man was created on the 6th day, so mankind’s association to the symbol of 6 is clear.
Finally, there is an interesting passage in Zechariah about two-thirds of the wicked being cut off. Perhaps it is a coincidence that two-thirds of 1000 is 666.
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
In the book Revelation Explained, we proposed that the Image of the Beast is people, or in other words, a segment of society around us that will believe deceptive messages and put the lies into practice. Since we also know that the Image causes the Mark, we see how the Mark of the Beast is increased in number as the false prophets gain more followers. It will not be just believing in the messages but acting on them like the symbol of the Mark on the right hand portrays. The hand is a symbol for action, so it does not necessarily mean every unbeliever is getting a chip implanted to buy or sell.
Like the Days of Noah
The end of the age will be like the Days of Noah. The judgments mentioned in Genesis 6 are primarily about sin and active rebellion of mankind, not about fallen angels, a famous figure, or any other focus topic like implanted chips. Christ’s predictions in Matthew 24 speak of warnings for average people not to be led astray by false prophets. This is the core warning message. We should let Christ’s clear warnings interpret Revelation 13.
People of the earth will do regular things in the last days like getting married or going on vacation. However, there will come a point when the majority follows the Beast system of lies and controls, then sudden destruction will come like in Noah’s day. This is the Day of the Lord that follows the 6th seal is opened when the worship of demons (known in the Bible as idols – Revelation 9:20-21) is prevalent during the wrath period of the bowls and trumpets. Please see the this video or here for more information about timing.
There are many warnings in Revelation not to take the Mark. Here is one final warning:
Revelation 14:9-11 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” All scripture quotes in italics.
All bold-face type within Scripture quotations has been added by the author for emphasis.
© 2022 by K.J. Soze