666 in 2020
It's been a strange year, to say the least. Cataclysmic and chaotic events seem to be everyday news. Viruses, storms, plagues, wildfires, social and political unrest. As Christians, it doesn't seem like too much of a leap to feel that the end of the world is near. Jesus said that terrible events would increase like birth pangs before the great Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:3-8). It sure seems like things have kicked into another gear.
With the increase of these events comes a renewed interest in prophecy. The Bible has much fulfilled prophecy in it, but it also has much that has yet to be fulfilled. The details of which are outlined in the last book of the Bible - Revelation. Revelation is a book filled with symbols and visions. How could it not be? John, an ancient citizen, was looking thousands of years into the future. What he saw must have been a mystery. And although there are many mysteries in the book, we tend to focus on only a few: Who will the Antichrist be? What country will be at the center of the final world empire? And, last but not least, what is the mark of the beast? I have recently been asked by more than one person about the details of the Mark of the Beast. Now, I am not a prophecy expert. I don't have the time to chase down every lead. There are people who do that. However, I would like to share some thoughts about this "mark." Maybe in the process, it will give you some answers when that random Facebook article scares the daylights out of you. Maybe you'll be inspired to dig deeper. But mainly I just want to provide some peace in the midst of all the chaos.
The problem with unfulfilled prophecy (at least for me) is that it can be terribly confusing. That is, if you try to dig into the details. Prophecy is a lot like trying to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon. It's grandiose from a helicopter view, but it's difficult to take it in from the canyon floor. And, unfortunately, it is generally anti-climactic - meaning that once you dig into the details you know a little more, but you don't really know any of those details for sure.
Let me explain using the Mark of the Beast.
The mark of the beast is talked about in Revelation 13:16-18. Revelation 13 introduces us to the Dreadful Duo - the Antichrist and the False Prophet. What is clear from the helicopter view of this passage is that these two abominable people will lead the final world empire. Under their rule, they will force "all" people to take a mark on their "right hand or the forehead" in order to "buy or sell." This mark will be "the name of the beast or the number of its name." Then there is this cryptic quote in verse 18: "This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666."
People have been calculating ever since. Here are some past "calculations" that, in my opinion, are highly implausible.
- One common practice is to use a form of numerology (the study of numbers) called Gematria . This ancient practice assigns a number to an individual letter. Those numbers are then added up to convey something significant. Using this method, the number 666 has been used throughout history to try to prove that one person or another is the Antichrist. Notable names include:
- Nero Caesar
- William Jefferson Clinton
- Ronald Wilson Reagan
- Bill Gates
You get the idea. This is implausible to me mainly because this was an ancient form of secret knowledge which the Bible roundly condemns. Remember that Satan's first lie was that Eve would have access to secret knowledge if she would just eat of the fruit. As followers of Christ, we do not seek out some hidden, mysterious knowledge unattainable to others. Instead, we "walk in the light." Jesus says to His enemies that He had "spoken openly." Prophecy is spoken openly, but it's not clearly understood until it's been fulfilled. For now, we only "see through a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12). So, guessing who the Antichrist is going to be is, in my opinion, a futile exercise. However, when he rises to power, he will be known. That's the whole point of Paul's discussion in 2 Thessalonians. The Christians thought they were in the Tribulation. Paul comforted them by telling them they hadn't yet seen the Antichrist, therefore they couldn't be in the End of Days. Which implies that he will be known when he comes to power.
- Another miscalculation is the UPC symbol on every product sold in the United States. I personally remember attending a revival service where the speaker exposed this as the mark of the beast - meaning that eventually we would all be "tattooed" with a barcode. (Read about the story HERE.)
The mystery of the barcode mark of the beast was that the first, middle, and last lines in the barcode always returned the number 6, and since most packages had 3 lines that would return the number 6, it was easy to see why some people would correlate this with the mark of the beast. But come to find out, it was an arbitrary design built into the computer code that when the scanner got to a line on the barcode that it couldn't read, it would return the number 6. Therefore, since these longer lines were at the front, middle, and last there was always going to be the number 666 on every package bought. In other words, it was sheer coincidence, unless of course you're not willing to believe that. In that case, it will be easy to fall for any one of these "coincidences." I personally believe this is not the mark of the beast.
Of course, these aren't the only calculations. I'm sure you have seen many different scenarios played out in headlines and Facebook feeds. Here are a couple of ways that seem plausible (at least to me):
- The giant leap for the Antichrist will be that he has to mark "all [people], both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave" (Rev. 13:16). That seems a gargantuan task even in our modern world. Much of the world is still third world in their economy and infrastructure. It seems highly unlikely that the Antichrist would be able to mark everyone with a sophisticated electronic or digital ID that would prevent them from doing the most basic transactions in the marketplace. So, if the mark is technological, it calls into question how far-reaching the Antichrist's power will be. Is it just the civilized world that will be affected? Or, is the final world empire confined largely to the Middle East? It seems to be a viable option considering that at one time Rome ruled the "world", but that does not mean they ruled the entire world - each and every individual, tribe, or language. But now consider that the final world empire could be Islamic (And I believe this is a good possibility). If it is, then it would not need to be highly sophisticated in order to control small local economies. Instead of some sort of digital implant, all the Antichrist would have to do is force people to wear a band with an Islamic creed on it (on their arm or forehead). It wouldn't be the first time they have required it (see below). And it would be a cheap, easy way for people to identify themselves with the Antichrist. In fact, there is at least one scholar who thinks the number 666 in one of the original Greek manuscripts for the book of Revelation is actually not the number 666 at all, but was rather an Arabic phrase unknown to copyists at the time, but is today known as an Islamic creed written in Arabic symbols. (Shoebat, Walid. God's War on Terror, pg. 369-374)
- A second possibility, and one that would solve the problem of inadequate technology is, for lack of a better term, a digital revolution. This is the idea that the mark will be some "implant" that identifies the bearer as loyal to the Antichrist. And since it controls whether or not you buy and sell, the implant could be tied to all of your personal information including your bank account, credit score, etc. Of course that still leaves the problem of how the entire world could be forced to take this mark when much of the world is not technologically advanced. However, there are a couple of things going on in the world right now that could make this a possibility. First, there is a group right now (headed by Bill Gates) that has the agenda to create a digital identity for every person on planet earth. The program is called ID2020. Of course, this is purported to be for the health and security of everyone, but it is not difficult to see how this could be used in the wrong hands. Secondly, there are already people being implanted with chips. So, at the very least, it is plausible that this could be the means by which the mark of the beast is administered.
Having said all that, do you now see what I mean about prophecy being difficult to dig into? And how the details can be anti-climactic? In one sense, from the helicopter view, we know this "mark" is going to happen, and seeing technology's and/or Islam's rise quickens the pulse a bit. However, from a different perspective (i.e. the canyon floor), we simply don't know if these are the vehicles the Antichrist will use, or if it will be something completely different - like a tattoo, or invisible ink, or maybe...
Could it be a vaccine? If so, is it possible that the coronavirus vaccine could become the mark of the beast? I say to you what Paul said to the Thessalonians, "… [do] not be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word [or Facebook feed or news article] … For that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… who opposes and exalts himself … [and] takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thess. 2:2-4). In other words, the End of Days, and the rise of the Antichrist, will not take place in a corner. Again, Paul says to the Thessalonians, "…you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief" (1 Thess. 5:4). Do you see what Paul is saying? The Tribulation begins with the rise of the Antichrist. Then, the rise of the False Prophet. Then, the mark of the beast. So, therefore the mark of the beast comes AFTER the rise of the Antichrist. And if the Antichrist's rise will be known by the people of God, then it stands to reason that the mark of the beast will not be something Christians will take unknowingly. It will be a choice. It will be a visible pledge of loyalty to the Antichrist and his rule. You will not be suckered into it.
So, should you take a vaccine? At this point, there is not enough information to make that call. It will most likely be an individual decision for you and your family much like it is right now. Of course, all of us cringe to hear that they might possibly 'force' us to put something in our bodies that we do not willingly sign up for. That scenario is fraught with numerous problems outside of whether or not it is allegedly the mark of the beast. And anything you have to put in your body in order to buy or sell is problematic, because of the wording of Revelation 13. But, for today, that's not our choice. We will have to deal with that if it comes. However, to ease your minds on this issue, remember that the Scripture makes clear that the mark of the beast will not be so subtle that you would unwittingly take it and forever damn yourself. Take comfort: you are safe in Christ.