The theory that I’m about to present certainly makes for an interesting discussion. And, if anything, I pray that it challenges you to think outside of the box.
When we dive into the pool of End Times prophecy, two of the subjects that quickly come up are “666” and the “Mark of the Beast.” What are these? Are they implants? Are they barcodes? Tattoos? Some sort of permanent stamp? And what exactly is the Mark of the Beast?
We read about the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13:11-18. For the sake of time and space I’m not going to post the passage in it’s entirety. However, I will be making references to portions of the passage to propose my theory.
The passage starts off with this:
“Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.” – Revelation 13:11-12
It is commonly understood in this passage that the first beast is the anti-Christ and the second beast is the false prophet. Most scholars agree on this, although, some may differ on who/what the anti-Christ actually is. For the purpose of this article, the identity of the anti-Christ isn’t relevant to the discussion, so we will quickly move on.
Now what is important about these two verses is that it draws out the fact the second beast, the false prophet, will cause all of the inhabitants of the earth to worship the beast. This is key to the whole theory because the mark of the beast centers around the worship of the beast. Please keep that in mind as we continue on.
“Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” – Revelation 13:14-15
So the false prophet orders that an image be made of the anti-Christ. With the power that it has been given by the anti-Christ the false prophet makes the image talk.
Here’s another key point: All who refused to worship the image are killed.
Let’s keep going.
“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” Revelation 13:16-17
Here’s where I’m really going to challenge you to stretch your thinking: What if the “it” that the apostle John is writing about here in verse 16 isn’t the false prophet as most assume? What if the “it” is something different?
We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Switching gears a little bit, let’s open our apps or Bibles to Genesis, chapter 4.
Cain kills his brother Abel. This murder revolves around worship—the first time in all of human history that one human takes another human’s life. After God explains to Cain the consequences of killing his brother, Cain expresses to God that he fears that everyone will now try to kill him. God addresses these fears in verse 15:
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.”
God gives Cain a mark that prevents him from being killed.The Bible doesn’t give a description of what this mark is or where it was placed on Cain. Only that God placed (put) the mark on Cain and this kept him from being killed. It’s interesting that this mark of Cain revolves around both murder and worship. Because that’s exactly what we see in Revelation 13 concerning the Mark of the Beast.
Could They Be the Same Mark?
Cain murdered his brother stemming from false worship. In Revelation 13:15 people are killed stemming from false worship. In both instances, the false worshippers receive marks after the murders take place. So could the Mark of the Beast be the same as the Mark of Cain? Could the Mark of the Beast really be a supernatural mark put on these false worshippers by God?
What is “It?”
What if the “it” that the apostle John in Revelation 13:16 is referring to isn’t the false prophet, but instead its worship? What if it’s their worship of the Beast and his image that causes them to receive the mark and not the decree of the false prophet as most assume?
“What are you saying, Eric?”
Most pastors, teachers, and preachers present the narrative like this: The false prophet decrees that people must take the Mark of the Beast or die. But that’s not the case if you closely examine Scripture.
Let’s look at Revelation 13:11-17 broken down:
Verse 12 – The false prophet makes people worship the Beast.
Verse 13 – The false prophet makes fire come down from heaven.
Verse 14 – The false prophet deceives the inhabitants of the earth and sets up an image of the Beast to be worshipped.
Verse 15 – The false prophet makes the image appear to be alive and gives it the power to talk. Anyone who doesn’t worship the image of the Beast is then killed.
Verse 16 – A mark (similar to the mark of Cain) supernaturally appears on those who worshipped the Beast and its image.
Verse 17 – Because this mark supernaturally appears on the ones who worshipped the Beast and its image no one can buy or sell without it. This physical mark displays who is a true worshipper of the anti-Christ.
They Cannot Be Killed
What was most significant about the mark of Cain was that once the mark appeared he couldn’t be killed.
In Revelation 9, the fifth trumpet is blown and up from the Abyss comes a plague of locust. Those who were not sealed by God were stung and tormented. In verse 6 it says, “During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.” Could it be that they’re marked by God because of their worship of the Beast and its image?
Fast forward to Revelation 16:2 where it says, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.”
As these bowls are being poured out, there’s absolutely no mention of these people being murdered by human hands. Without a doubt as the lakes, rivers, and oceans are turning to blood, as people are being scorched by the sun, as darkness plagues the land, as the greatest earthquake to have ever struck the earth strikes, there are people dying. But nowhere past Revelation 14:13 does it mention people being killed by other people. And even at that these are those which “die in the Lord.”
Revelation doesn’t say specifically how people end up with the mark. It’s assumed that they “take” it voluntarily, but Revelation doesn’t say that. It’s also assumed that the mark is given to them by the anti-Christ/false prophet. But once again Revelation doesn’t specifically say that. It doesn’t say specifically who gives them the mark or how they receive it. It only says that those who worshipped the beast and its image receive the mark. Those who didn’t worship the beast and his image were killed.
In regard to the Mark of the Beast, this leaves a lot of room for other possibilities. What I’m hypothesizing is just one of them.
Eric Johnson wears many hats! Husband, father, organic church planter, pastor, preacher, conference speaker, worship leader, songwriter, cancer survivor, and a semi-retired professional stand-up comedian, Eric has been really blessed over the years to have the following artists close the show for him: Hawk Nelson, 7eventh Time Down, The Josh Gilbert Band, and Shinebright. Eric makes his home in majestic mountains of Bristol, Tennessee, with his amazing wife, Crystal and their son, Kyle. Follow him at @EricIsGuitarted.