What a joyful topic! But it’s a biblical topic and therefore a necessary one to address. I believe this is especially true right now. As a pastor, I’ve already had people asking about the mark of the beast in relation to the strange times we are experiencing. I’ve seen articles posted (some sub-biblical at best). I’ve personally been asked if the COVID-19 vaccine is the taking of the mark of the beast. My short answer is, “No.” My medium answer is, “No, it’s much more ‘invasive’ than any such thing as a vaccine. My long answer is more detailed. . . .
Occurrences of the “Mark” in Revelation
The phrase, “mark of the beast,” itself is only used two times in Scripture (Rev.16:2; 19:20). But the word mark or marked occurs another 5 times (Rev.13:16, 17; 14:9, 11; 20:4). The idea of the mark in these texts is related to barring people from buying or selling “unless he has the mark” (Rev.13:17a). The mark itself is said to be “the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev.13:17b). And then we read that the beast’s name “is the number of a man, and his number 666” (Rev.13:18b).
Marked as Satan Worshipers
Is the mark a literal or a spiritual mark or both? I believe the Bible is clear that it’s not simply a literal mark in a person’s flesh or some other literal fulfillment such as an identification card, bar code, QR code, computer chip, the contents of a vaccine, or any such thing. While I believe the mark will be applied in very literal ways related to identification methods, the main meaning of the mark is spiritual. I conclude this from all the Revelation texts that connect the mark to WORSHIP. Look at the basic train of thought in Revelation 12-13.
(1) Great Dragon—The Dragon rules as the dark “lord” of this world who wants nothing less than to be worshiped (Rev.12:1-17; 13:4)
(2) First Beast/Sea Beast—The ten-horned, seven-headed beast serves the Dragon by deceiving people into worshiping him, which is actually worship of the Dragon (Rev.13:1-10)
(3) Second Beast/Earth Beast—The two-horned, lamb beast serves the Dragon by deceiving people into worshiping the Earth Beast, which is actually worship of the Dragon (Rev.13:11-18).
But how do we go about interpreting these terrifying creatures exactly?
Most of us are familiar with the name and concept of the Anti-Christ. The word “antichrist” (ἀντίχριστος) is used four times in the New Testament, each time by the Apostle John (1 Jn.2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn. 7). The Greek preposition “anti-“ (ἀντί) on the front end of “Christ” (χριστος) has the primary meaning, instead of or in place of. The final last days Anti-Christ will set himself to be worshiped by all peoples (2 Thess.2:1-12). In the meantime, John says in this “last hour” in which we are living “that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 Jn.2:18; emphasis added). John goes on to say that the antichrists/Anti-Christ are the ones who deny “Jesus is the Christ?” (1 Jn.2:22) and do “not confess Jesus” as come in the flesh (1 Jn.4:2-3; 2 Jn. 7).
Put all this together, and the idea of the Anti-Christ coming instead of or in place of Jesus Christ, defines the Anti-Christ as the wicked opposite of Christ who attempts to replace Christ as if he’s the “equivalent” of Christ.
But did you know Revelation alludes to a full-blown Anti-Trinity—Anti-Father, Anti-Christ, and Anti-Spirit. The Great Dragon, Sea Beast, and Earth Beast make up this wicked Anti-Trinity. Look at the basic breakdown below:
Great Dragon = Satan = Anti-Father
We know the Great Dragon is symbolic of Satan because the text clearly tells us so (Rev.12:9; 20:2). And we know the perennial desire of Satan is to be God (Isa.14:14; Eze.28:2; cf. Gen.3:4-5; 2 Thess.2:4)
Sea Beast = Godless Governments = Anti-Christ
Godless Governments is an umbrella phrase for the nations (both individual nations and alliances between nations), economic institutions, educational institutions, scientific institutions, etc. I believe the Sea Beast is symbolic of Godless Governments and the Anti-Christ for several reasons:
(1) The Sea Beast is seen “rising out of the sea” (Rev.13:1). The “sea” is used frequently in the Bible to represent the nations of the world and/or the peoples that make up the nations (cf. Eze.26:3; Dan.7:2-3). This imagery is reaffirmed by Daniel in particular (Dan.7:2-3).
(2) The Sea Beast has a “mortal wound” that seems to be “healed” (Rev.13:3-4, 14). This recalls Christ who received a mortal wound at the cross but was resurrected on the third day.
(3) The Sea Beast is given the Dragon’s authority, especially the authority to wage war against God’s people (Rev.13:5-8). This is the same power the pagan nations exercised against God’s people as recorded in Daniel’s prophecy (Dan.7-8).
Earth Beast = Wicked Religious Leaders = Anti-Spirit
Wicked Religious Leaders is an umbrella phrase for the religions, religious institutions, and religious leaders of the world. I believe the Second Beast is symbolic of wicked religious leaders and the Anti-Spirit for several reasons:
(1) The Earth Beast is seen “rising out of the earth”, which is the domain of men and the material out of which men have been created.
(2) The Earth Beast causes all unbelievers to be “marked on the right hand or the forehead” (Rev.13:16); and the mark “is the number of man” (Rev.13:18).
(3) The Earth Beast is called the “false prophet” later in Revelation (Rev.16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
(4) The Earth Beast leads/commands unbelievers to worship the Sea Beast and the Dragon (Rev.13:12-14), which is the wicked imitation of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of Christ’s Church.
The Dragon, Sea Beast, and Earth Beast is Satan’s attempt at forming a tri-unity. Each “person” in this unholy trinity forms an indivisible, intertwined relationship similar to the Holy Trinity. Praise be to God, Satan’s efforts have failed, are failing, and will fail to accomplish this fully.
Multiple-Fulfillments of the Mark
It is reasonable to conclude that the Roman Empire of the first century (and then again throughout many centuries) fulfills the symbolism of the Sea and Earth Beasts.
It is also reasonable to conclude that the Sea and Earth Beasts continue to find fulfillment everywhere in the world where politics and religion mix. When I say “religion”, don’t just think of Christianity or other world religions. Think also of schools, universities, scientific and economic institutions, etc. (many of which have either informally or even formally declared, “God is dead,” meaning education/science is superior to genuine theology). The influence of the Sea and Earth Beasts is undeniable in governments throughout the world, including the United States of America.
Again, it’s reasonable to conclude that a final, future fulfillment of the Sea and Earth Beasts is yet to come. The only way we will ever know if current persons/nations are the final, future fulfillment prior to Christ’s Second Coming is when we see Jesus Christ actually return. In other words, until Jesus comes back, we can’t say what’s going on is the VERY END of it all because “no man knows the day or the hour (Matt.24:36; 25:13; Mk.13:32; 1 Thess.5:1-2) of Christ’s Return.
False Beliefs that Lead to False Worship
The “mark of the beast” is summed up as an issue of false beliefs/thinking invented by the nations, preached by false prophets to the people, leading the world into false beliefs and false worship. Unbelievers look to the godless nations and false religions/churches to “save” them, not realizing they’re actually worshiping Satan “instead of” (ἀντί) God.
Therefore, taking the mark of the beast is not something a person can do accidentally or out of ignorance. Yet, even unbelievers will be ignorant of the fact they’re being deceived. It will be such a strong delusion that “if possible, even the elect” would be led astray (Matt.24:24). But taking the mark of the beast is an intentional decision. The bottom line is denying Christ, which means denying God’s Word by listening to godless governments and wicked religious leaders. In our world today, it seems it come to us mostly in the form of 24-hour news media. It also comes through the internet, especially social media. The point is that we must beware of loving this life—this world’s government, culture, religion, traditions, money, comfort, and pleasures—more than Jesus Christ.
Is the Covid vaccine the mark of the beast? No, not in and of itself. But because it is promoted by godless governments and wicked religious/ scientific leaders, we must question anything and everything they promote. For example, they are preaching that it’s “SAFE”. But safe for whom? What they leave out of their preaching is that the initial version of the vaccine has been manufactured using tissue harvested from murdered human babies (as several other vaccinations have for years now).
All this to say, I won’t be receiving the vaccine. I don’t believe it’s advisable for other Christians to receive it either. Develop a vaccine without tissue from murdered humans in it, and I will reconsider the situation. But even then, I would be hesitant for two reasons: 1) The “rush” to develop the drug is problematic; and 2) The less than 1% morbidity rate seems to make a “rushed” drug at best an overreaction.
In any case, fellow Christ-followers, let’s be vigilant against all godless government and wicked religious leaders that would have us doubt, disbelieve, and deny Jesus Christ–even those (especially those) that have the audacity to say they are His followers too.
Christ is All,