By Merrill Olson
One of the most intriguing issues in Bible prophecy has to do with the mark of the Beast (Rev. 13:16-18). No biblical truth regarding prophecy has brought more sensationalism, speculation, and trivialization than the one regarding this mark. Many questions have been asked regarding its meaning and even how it may be in some way connected to modern technology.
Futilely, some people in history have even attempted to connect the number 666 (Rev. 13:18) with some political figure. They have sought to calculate it in a particular way and were sure that it pointed to a specific individual. Therefore, a number of rulers have been suggested like the Roman Emperor Nero, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mikhail Gorbachev. There were those that were sure that Saddam Hussein was the one connected with the number. Others tried to connect it with an American president. Nevertheless, their computations turned out to be a wasted effort because those they named have long disappeared from the scene even through death.
On the other hand, there are scholars who hold the preterist (past) view regarding the Book of Revelation. They believe that Caesar Nero was the Beast, and the mark of the Beast was completely fulfilled during his reign (AD 54-68). For the preterist, the Beast has already appeared on the scene and has been defeated by Christ. Therefore, it is not a future foe but one that has been on this earth and is gone.
However, the preterist view is a false understanding of the Book of Revelation. It is reading into something that is not there. It tries to make Scripture say what it is not. The biblical truth is that the Beast is still future, and no one will know the person connected with the number until the Antichrist is revealed. The 666 is the numerical value of his name. The mark of the beast, therefore, has never been fulfilled. It is still something that lies in the future, and any calculations beforehand are merely useless efforts.
According to the Bible, the second beast (Rev. 13:11-17), who is the false prophet, is the Antichrist’s loyal enforcer during the Tribulation. He will head up the operation as he requires people to take the mark (vv. 16-17). It will be a time when he will force people to declare their loyalty and allegiance to the Antichrist or to Jesus Christ. No one will be allowed to remain neutral or to have time to think about it. It will be an immediate decision for them when they are presented with it. For those who refuse the mark in allegiance to Jesus Christ, many of them will be “beheaded” (Rev. 20:4).
All people who express their commitment to the Antichrist will willingly receive the mark on either “their right hand or their forehead” (v. 16). It will be required because without it, they will neither be able to “buy or sell” (v. 17).For anyone who chooses the mark, there will be no turning back. Once it is given, it seals one’s eternal destiny in Hell.
However, before the Tribulation begins the Rapture of all Christ’s redeemed (1 Thess. 4:13-17) will happen. No wonder we have the promise: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
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