Are we close to the dreaded “mark of the beast”?

With vaccine passports and other government regulations and narratives echoing George Orwell’s 1984, it’s not surprising the “mark of the beast” is being bandied about too. So, is the pandemic leading up to a mark of the beast, and if so can it be identified?  

Yes, it can be, according to Revelation 13 (the mark of the beast chapter), because it says, “If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number,” verse 18. It even provides a handy little clue too, that it’s “man’s number,” suggesting it’s typical of how man’s rule operates. It’s like a detective letting a suspect know, “I’ve got your number, buddy,” meaning “I know your type and how you operate” – just like we can know a tyrannical ruler’s number, having witnessed many such rulers through our history.   

Revelation 13 also talks of two beasts, “the beast out of the sea” (verse 1), and the  “beast out of the earth” (verse 11). It identifies the first beast as the dragon’s henchman directing worship away from the true God to itself instead (verses 2, 4 to 8). The Roman Empire pictured this first beast well, the emperor Domitian actually calling himself “Lord and God.”     

The second beast is typical of the Roman Empire too, in its ability to “make the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast,” verse 12. The second beast is the machinery enforcing the first beast’s claim of divinity. It can be identified in three ways – by its “lamb-like” attitude, so typical of propagandists hiding their real intent, by how it “speaks like a dragon,” using fear to get people to comply, and by deception made possible by what appear to be “great and miraculous signs” (verses 13-14). All three convince people that the first beast really is a god, who’d better be worshipped as such or else, the or else being death (verse 15). 

So this second beast would be recognizable by its fuelling the fear of death to anyone not following the god-claiming narrative of the first beast. It would also be recognizable by its mandate that no one can “buy or sell unless he has the mark” of this first beast (verse 17). So this second beast is what we might call the chief propagandist, skillfully fashioning the myth of the first beast being a real god and saviour, and woe betide anyone, and especially Christians (verses 7-8), who thought otherwise. 

And to make sure that everyone complies, the second beast enforces its “no mark, no market” policy by totally cutting people off from their jobs and livelihoods for non-compliance. It’s either “comply or die.” And compliance is identified by the first beast’s “mark,” or image of itself in number or name, being stamped on people in some way (verse 17). And that image or mark becomes the passport to continue doing business.  

And if all this sounds familiar in what’s happening during the pandemic, perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking that, but the context of Revelation 13 needs to be taken into account too, because it talks of the first beast “having a fatal wound” and that fatal wound being healed (verses 3 and 12). 

For first century Christians, to whom Revelation was originally written, this would identify as the Roman Empire, because it was Rome and its god-claiming Caesars who were at “war against the saints,” verse 7. Having its deadly wound healed suggests a resurrection of that system, but with much, much greater power.  

The pandemic could be described as a taste of such a system rising in our day, but it’s nowhere close to what Revelation 13 is describing. We can calculate from historical precedent what the two beasts represent, yes, but this last manifestation of Rome is like nothing before it. It has immense power, it is intensely evil, and it is totally anti-God and anti-Christian. And the number “666” gives the game away too, because it’s “man’s number,” blatantly and brazenly claiming that “man,” humans, run the show, not God. 

See all that in action and we’ve got the “mark of the beast’s” number all right, so if it arises in our day we Christians won’t be deceived by it either. 

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