Now that I have explained why I believe a ‘beast‘ represents an evil kingdom, and that ‘on their right hand or on their forehead‘ refers to what we think and do, I’d like to explain my thoughts about what the mark of the beast might be. However, before we begin, I’ll just admit to you that I make no special claim of knowing what the mark is with any degree of certainty. I just want to explain what I believe it may be based on the previous two posts in this series.
As I said when I left off the last post, I think there are a few keys in Matthew 15:15-20:
Matthew 15:15-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Heart of Man
15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
‘For out of the heart…’
Often times, there are very subtle differences in the Scriptures that get lost in translation, but which are crucial to a deeper, fuller understanding of its meaning. The Hebrew word behind the word we most often translate as, ‘heart,’ is one of those ‘lost in translation’ things. A more literal translation would be, ‘entrails,’ because this is where the ancients thought the mind resided: at least, that part of us responsible for making informed decisions. Whether this is carried over to the Greek word we translate as, ‘heart,’ I have not yet studied, but I’m also doubtful that I need to do so as the autho remains the same. Therefore, no matter what word he lead His prophet, Apostle or scribe to use, the Lord would still intend us to understand that He is speaking about our mind, or conscious will, not our emotional self or desires. So, with this behind us, let us look at that again:
‘Out of the heart come evil thoughts…’ ‘Out of our mind, or our will, come evil thoughts.’
Others are free to disagree, but this line of reasoning just seems to flow for me, so I believe it to be the correct interpretation. Especially when we consider that these words are connected to the next set of words that I have highlighted in bold:
‘These are the things which defile the man;…’
We are defiled, not by the things that go inside us, such as food, but by the thoughts which lead to words and actions.
Now, I confess, it is also possible that one could understand that our feelings or desires — the things we in the modern West most closely associate with ‘the heart’ — could easily be confused for the cause of evil deeds, but I would disagree. I have evil impulses and desires all the time, but I resist them. If they were what drove my every act, then I would act on every evil desire — but I don’t. Why? Because my mind is what controls my actions, not my desire. So, to me, Matthew 15:15-20 clearly teaches us that what we think will ultimately control what we do; and, if what we think is evil, we will do evil. This is what defiles us: not some physical mark on our skin, but a Spiritual mark in our minds, our will.
Now that we have looked at all the underlying meanings that might be pertinent to understanding the passage in question, let’s have a look at that passage that has fascinated so many for so long:
Revelation 13:16-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, [a]to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 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. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is [b]six hundred and sixty-six.
Here is where I might start to disappoint some readers, for, as I said earlier, I am not going to assert any definitive answers as to what the mark may be. This is largely because of how I approach all prophecy. I look first for the Spiritual message, because I believe that will be simple and consistent. Then I look for how it manifests in this material world. If we approach prophecy in this way, many times, we will find that there can be many physical manifestations of the prophecy, not just one. Therefore, I am merely going to ask a series of pointed questions and leave each reader to ponder the answers for themselves.
‘…no one will be able to buy or sell without the mark…’
What is required to buy or sell if not money? And who controls the money if not the government?
‘…for the number is that of a man; and his number is [b]six hundred and sixty-six.’
What is the Scriptural number for Man? (Look it up. I suspect you will find that the number, ‘6,’ is connected to Man: 6 being one less than the number for perfection, 7). So, could this mean that the mark of the Beast, the number of a Man, means that the Beast is the mark of Man’s work: man’s effort to perfect himself, or to make his own paradise on Earth?
Is there anywhere else in Scripture where we either find the number six, six, six, or six hundred and sixty-six? Or anywhere where the number, 6, is connected to money, or to Man’s efforts to make himself into his own god?
2 Chronicles 9:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Solomon’s Wealth and Power
13 Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold,
Well, this passage seems to link the number, 666, to gold (money).
Ezra 2:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 the sons of Adonikam, 666;
This passage is difficult, as there seems to be strong disagreement about the meaning of the name, Adonikam. However, as Adonikam is believed to be from the Tribe of Dan, and Dan has been erased in the prophetic futures of Israel because of its Spiritual wickedness, there does seem to be a connection here that suggests the number, 666, is connected to Spiritual enemies of YHWH and His people.
There is yet another passage where the number, 6, plays and interesting role, but it is not so easily seen. It is in the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, Dan 3:1-18. In this story, the statue is a representation of Nebuchadnezzar as a god, or the figure of some god he designed/created and commanded the people to worship. It was 60 cubits tall, and 6 cubits wide. Then, a list of six instruments is named, and the people are told to bow to the statue every time they hear those six instruments play. Those six instruments are listed three times within this story (6, 3 times: 6-6-6).
Admittedly, we do not see a literal ‘666’ in this story, but the number 6 is prominently linked to gold (money), man as his own god (the statue) and false worship (the instruments and music). So, while I cannot point to a definitive link between Daniel 3 and Revelation 13, I can’t help but suspect one exists, and it points to money, man as god, and rebellion to YHWH.
[NOTE: there is a similar passage in which six materials are listed three times in connection to man setting himself up as a god, but I could not find it right away. I will add it to this post once I do as it is a close parallel to Daniel 3.]
Since a ‘beast’ represents a kingdom, not a man; and, since the Antichrist is a Spirit, not a unique historical figure, I have given up looking for him, or for a way to connect the ‘beast’ to a man, or the number, 666, to a single, unique person. Instead, I have started to look at the Spiritual meanings in the language John used. They are Hebrew in nature, and they can be identified with a great deal of certainty. Thus, I have come to believe that the mark of the beast has something to do with adopting a belief or way of thinking that is not only rebellious to YHWH’s Law, but which also causes us to act contrary to that Law. Furthermore, I believe it may well be connected to money, or, at the very least, a love of money (which closely parallels a lust for control over the lives and will of others). Once again, I do not know any of this for certain. I will just say that, for me, the way I have come to understand this issue seems to fit better with the whole of Scripture than anything else I’ve found. Once again, I am speaking for me and me alone, so I will end here and leave others to decide for themselves.