Acts 17:11 Archives

The Mark of The Beast

A response of correction to the idea that Social Security numbers are the "666" mark--or number--of the beast; and a defense of the biblical interpretation of "marks" being figurative, not literal, in the Bible. By Dean VanDruff.

First, your assertion belies a superstition about numbers. Numbering systems have always been a part of governmental control, and are not evil in themselves, but practical. Mary went to the prophesied place, for example, due to a census. Numbers are more exact in tracking people than names with variant spellings, overlap, ambiguity, etc. Some superstitious people read "evil" into numbers for this reason.

The evil of David's numbering (2Sa 24:10) was that he was gloating and primping. Still, had you been living in his time, would rebellion against his decision been within God's will? We are to submit to the governing authorities in this evil world as long as it is not against the gospel of Jesus Christ. This turned out to be a major "hassle" for Joseph, and it will be for us to some extent as well. Let us not let rebellion coupled with superstition light upon a numbering schema and think that numbers are evil in themselves. If you follow me here, what I have found is that people who are essentially stiff-necked and do not want to submit to governing authorities (like me, by the way) have a tendency to spiritualize sin into prophetic virtue by becoming superstitious about pragmatic numbering systems that all governments use and have used to track people. The next numbering system, not wanted and a "hassle", is always the "mark of the beast". <sigh>

Rom 13:1 (NIV) Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

No doubt, it is to the government's benefit to "number" us, and we get nothing or little out of it. And some governments are much worse than others, so what they do with these "numbers" might well be to our major disadvantage. This is nothing new, nor is it a prophetic fulfillment, it is an age old problem for every government that has ever existed. For example, there have been many very heavy-handed regimes that controlled food, etc., where "you could not buy or sell" without government approval, in China and the middle east and in Africa and in Europe, and this was not the end. And there still are. How would God have had us live if we had been in those regimes, or if such comes again before the end? Are we not given specific commands of how to live? Aren't we told that "the end is NOT YET" (Mt 24:6) until certain events happen? Can we do a corban-ish dance around God's clear command based on the pretext that: "We thought FDR was the antichrist since he numbered us and controlled our food supply through the FDA, so we refused to obey him in areas not related to our faith?" I do hope you see this "snare" clearly here. A clear sin-instinct parading as prophetic "understanding", or even virtue! Will we ever learn?

1Pt 2:13 (NIV) Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority...

Joh 18:36 (NIV) Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world..."

But on to what the Bible does say about "the marks" in terms of what we should expect.

"Marks" and "seals" are mentioned elsewhere in the bible, and are never literal or physical. You are a teacher of Israel, and did not know this? <smiles> This is the kind of thing that irritated Jesus greatly, this "dumbing down" of His spiritual points into something literal which makes it manageable, completely misses the point, and derails His truth into carnality.

For some prophecies it is "cheap" and revelation-rejecting to not take them literally, but it is also true (more often true?) that we take some things literally as a means to avoid the obvious, deeper, spiritual meaning.

2Co 4:18 (NIV) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Concerning numbers as physical marks, I would like to suggest this is a prophetic canard with little scriptural support. A mark is prophesied, to be sure. But the meaning of marks and seals is clear enough in God's way of speaking, and so we can know what is being conveyed if we let scripture interpret scripture. Rather than "reacting" in the flesh to things I may not like in terms of part-of-the-curse human governmental control, I am repenting rather to be concerned about allegiance and spiritual marks, seals, and the like. I would encourage you to do likewise and not follow like a lemming in current fad of "prophecy by newspaper".

By example of scripture, "marks" are clearly NOT literal, and neither are they always associated with evil. The mark of the beast is evil, to be sure, but this harks back to previous "marks" given by God...

Rom 15:4a (NAS) For whatever was written in earlier time was written for our instruction...

Is there another place in Scripture where a mark / sign is put on the forehead and/or hand? Well, yes, in fact there is.

Case # 1: The Mark of the Sabbath

Ex 13:9 (NAS) "And it [sabbath observance] shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead..."

While modern Christians may be unaware of this, it is impossible to imagine that John the Jewish apostle did not know what "forehead and hand" marks/signs meant. In the Exodus 13 case, it meant "shadow" observance (Heb 10:1) of the sabbath as a harbinger of Christ, the ultimate sabbath rest... "Today!"

Heb 4:6-10 (NIV) It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

In any case, even in the less-clear old covenant the sabbath was described as a hand/head sign/mark, meaning hands stopped "work" and the mind considered from whom safety and strength ultimately come. This hand-eye coordination with the truth of God was described as a mark/sign, so much so that the Jews in their dullard pragmatism took it all a bit too literally with their phyllim--and still do today--which Jesus chided the Pharisees about (Mt 23:5). It is rather daft to be tying bits of miniaturized parchment with leather straps onto the forehead and back of the hand... and thinking this is what God had in mind with His command. Are we insulting God, or ourselves? Are we missing the spiritual point?

Mat 16:8-11 (NIV) Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand?... How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Case # 2: Ezekiel's Mark

Eze 9:4 (NIV) ..."Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."

I would encourage you to read the whole of this gruesome prophetic episode in Ezekiel 9. For our purposes here, note the "mark" given by the mysterious man in a linen garment "with a writing kit by his side" to those who qualify. Only those "with the mark" are spared God's judgment, which is going to happen rather swiftly and violently. And how do you qualify to get this special "passover" mark? You get it by "grieving and lamenting" over the detestable things being done in God's Name and in His temple. What do you think, is this a tattoo?

Of particular interest in this chilling and epic prophecy is that it has not, historically, been fulfilled. Think about it. This is an unfulfilled prophecy. I believe it will be fulfilled, perhaps soon. Do you qualify to be spared? When God speaks of the "temple", do you think of stones?

Ac 17:24 (NIV) "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands."

Acts 7:48 (NIV) "...the Most High does not live in houses made by men..."

1Co 2:13 (NIV) This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom [or the newspaper or anti-government propaganda] but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

John 8:43 (NIV) "Why is my language not clear to you?"

Marks on hands and foreheads are mentioned "beforetime, for our learning" (Rm 15:4) and they are not used literally. They are only and ever used figuratively. Some things must and ought to be taken literally, but not this. To assume the evil "mark of the beast" is literal is to ignore the wisdom of God contained in His word, or perhaps to just be ignorant of it. But Scripture only and ever uses marks as figurative, not literal.

Hope this helps. It would be a shame to be looking for a mistaken thing that never happened, and find yourself with a real spiritual mark as a consequence.

2Co 10:7a (Wey) Is it outward appearances you look to?

Ps 51:6a (NIV) Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.

Mat 15:16-20 (NIV) "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them... For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'..."

1Sa 16:7b (NIV) "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

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