The mark…

I honestly wanted to do some reading on Revelation 13 and 14 and study the mark of the beast.

That’s largely impossible now…well…impossible if you want to use Google to try to find information.

Why?

Pages and pages of “Is the vaccination the mark of the beast?”

There is a reason Google put all those hits at the top of the search results – people are worried, they are full of anxiety, they are wondering about the future. So, before any talk about beasts, and marks, and antichrists, let’s remind ourselves of something great.

Romans 8:31–39(‎‎31‎‎)What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (‎‎32‎‎)He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (‎‎33‎‎)Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (‎‎34‎‎)Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (‎‎35‎‎)Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (‎‎36‎‎)As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (‎‎37‎‎)No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (‎‎38‎‎)For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (‎‎39‎‎)nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

What a wonderful promise! Christian, you need not fear, no matter what happens. No matter when or who or what the future brings to bear on you, your future is secure in the arms of Jesus who will.never.let.you.go!

That is the cure for your anxiety. That is the cure for your fear. Remember that Jesus has you and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

You know that. Now, let’s apply that knowledge too the task at hand, because thinking about the mark of the beast and all that entails can be frightening indeed!

Especially if we let wrong understandings cloud our thinking.

The mark of the beast comes from a couple passages in Revelation, namely Revelation 13:16-18 and 14:9-11. Revelation 13 introduces this mark:

Revelation 13:16–18(‎‎16‎‎)Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, (‎‎17‎‎)so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (‎‎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. (ESV)

Reading that, you might be saying (to yourself or out loud) “hmmm, that sounds kinda like what’s going on now…people losing their jobs because they won’t get vaccinated, and without jobs, you can’t buy stuff, etc.” Maybe you can see why some people are on edge. But if you know nothing else about the revelation of Jesus to John, know this: it was written as an encouragement to Christians who were facing extreme persecution.

That said, how does this relate to a vaccine?

In short, it doesn’t. Not really.

First and foremost, people aren’t getting the vaccine in their forehead or right hand. But even if they were…

… people can still buy and sell things without getting vaccinated. But even if they couldn’t…

… the vaccination doesn’t bear the name of the beast. But even if it did…

… there’s more. Remember Revelation 14:

Revelation 14:9–11(‎‎9‎‎)And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, (‎‎10‎‎)he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (‎‎11‎‎)And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (ESV)

The mark of the beast from Revelation 13 is further described in Revelation 14, and in Revelation 14, it is tied directly to worship…”if anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or right hand…”

All over scripture, “forehead” (see Jeremiah 3:3, Ezekiel 3:7-9, Isaiah 48:3-5, Numbers 24:17) is often used to symbolize assent or agreement or regard while “right hand” (see Acts 2:25-26, Romans 8:33-35, Hebrews 10:12-13, 1 Peter 3:21-22, Revelation 2:1) is often used to signify power, or might, or majesty. It is no different here.

It was no different in the Old Testament either:

Deuteronomy 6:4–9(‎‎4‎‎)“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (‎‎5‎‎)You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (‎‎6‎‎)And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (‎‎7‎‎)You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (‎‎8‎‎)You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (‎‎9‎‎)You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)

The similarities are pretty striking. First, love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. That is utter devotion. That is love. That is worship.

And what does this look in the lives of the people?

They were to internalize God’s words in their hearts, teach them to their children, integrate them into everyday life whether sitting or walking or going to bed or getting up in the morning.

And how could they accomplish this?

By binding God’s word as a sign on their hands and between their eyes (i.e. on their foreheads).

Was that a command to write the entirety of God’s words on their hands and heads? Was it a command to somehow mark themselves with a tattoo or brand? Some saw it that way and went to extreme measures. But most saw it for what it was – as a command to devote themselves entirely to God, to bind His words on their hands was to bind their work and to submit their power and authority to God – to think of Him and honor Him when they worked. To bind His words between their eyes was to bind their thoughts and will to God – to keep every thought captive to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Could you symbolize this with a tattoo? Sure you could. But it’s not about the tattoo.

Binding your heart, binding your work and power, binding your thoughts and your will to God…those are the marks God requires.

Taking the mark of the beast on your right hand then is not so much a vaccine, rather, it is a binding – you are placing the beast in a position of authority over you or power over you or dominion over you. Could you symbolize that with a vaccine? Sure you could. But it’s not about a vaccine.

Taking the mark on your forehead then is not so much a microchip, rather, it is a binding – you are assenting to the beast and agreeing with it and submitting your will to it. Could you symbolize that with a microchip? Sure you could. But it’s not about the microchip.

Binding your heart, binding your work and power, binding your thoughts and your will to the beast…those are the marks the beast requires.

What the beast requires is a complete parody of being bound by faith and trust to Jesus – loving the beast your god with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Keeping its words on your heart. Teaching them to your children, talking about them as you sit, walk, lie down, and rise. Binding them as a sign on your hand and between your eyes.

That is the abomination. That is the mark of the beast.

Could getting vaccinated represent this kind of alignment with the beast?

Maybe. Maybe people are getting vaccinated because they worship the government and want to bind themselves to it fully. People worship all kinds of things that aren’t God every day, and there are certainly people for whom the government is their god. I’ve seen it. I know people like that. But even so, I don’t know that I’d say they got (or would get) the vaccine as an act of worship.

But submitting to a tyrannical government isn’t what John was writing about. The beast of Revelation is not a government.

Remember the occasion – this letter was written as an encouragement to Christians in the 1st century (and every century since). John is telling them and us that trying to identify who or what the antichrist is, what the beast is, and what the mark is is far less important or useful than is the truth of what is taking place and how abhorrent it really is.

In fact, he’s warning us that it’s likely a distraction.

So, what’s taking place that is so wicked, so evil? What’s so abominable?

This is what is wicked – that the beast is setting itself up as a pantomime Jesus and parodying the seal of the Holy Spirit with its own mark – one that entails worship and power and majesty and devotion to it (forehead and right hand stuff.)

Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit and worship Him and ascribe to Him power, majesty, might, glory, honor, etc. (forehead and right hand stuff.)

The rest are sealed with the mark of the beast and worship it and ascribe to it power, majesty, might, glory, honor, etc. (forehead and right hand stuff.)

It’s not so much about who specifically the beast is, or what specifically the mark is.

It’s about who the beast is not.

The beast is not God.

But it wants what only God deserves.

The purpose of Revelation 13 and 14 is not to scare you into being afraid of taking some mark – it’s to warn you that worship of anything other than God leads to an eternity facing God’s wrath.

The result of such worship is clear – eternal torment without rest, again “for those who worship the beast and receive the mark of its name.” Read Revelation 14 again – the truth is chilling, but only chilling if you do not belong to Jesus, not if you have taken a vaccine.

But if you still believe that the vaccination is the mark of the beast, then you must necessarily believe at least one of the following…

… that every Christian you know who got vaccinated was really never a Christian and is a beast worshipper, consigned to an eternal fire and judgement, drinking God’s wrath for eternity. In which case God will reject the very Children He adopted and un-adopt them and cast them out because of sin, NEVER to grant them repentance ever again. In which case, you deny the truth of Romans 8 and so many other passages.

… that a Christian can take the mark of the beast but not really worship it and divorce the entire thing from the context of worship that the bible places on this entire scenario. In which case, you are saying that the bible here is wrong for making the mark a result of or occasion for worship.

… that we can know who is a true Christian, not by their love for one another and their devotion to Jesus, but by their vaccination status. That idea makes almost all of the bible wrong again. Remember, the same John who wrote this letter also records tehse words from Jesus:

John 13:31–35(‎‎31‎‎)When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.(‎‎32‎‎)If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.(‎‎33‎‎)Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’(‎‎34‎‎)A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.(‎‎35‎‎)By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

And those don’t simply apply to vaccination as the mark. It would also apply to chips, or tattoos, or piercings, or credit cards, or any other thing.

I am fully convinced that this mark is not physical, and if perhaps it is, it comes in lock step with a full devotion of both head and hands to the beast, having been finally and ultimately given over to our sin by God.

Something God will never allow to happen to any of His children.

Ever.

Christian, you can face this with boldness, with confidence, and with assurance! God’s hand is not so weak as to be stayed by a needle! Getting the vaccine or not getting the vaccine is a personal decision you can make in the confidence that it is not this mark.

This world is dark enough as it is.

So love God.

There are many things to steal away your attention.

So seek God.

There are things that take the place of God.

So worship God.

Abide in God and don’t interpret Revelation with the morning paper nearby as your commentary.

Who the beast is isn’t important to you…not really.

Who the beast is not? That’s important to you.

The beast is not God.

So love God.

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Christian, would you fail the “religious test”?

I have attempted to stay away from political posts this year, unless such topics have a direct line to or from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the past week, there have been a few overtly political events that are rooted in the utter rejection of the truth of the gospel, and one of them involves a man who many Christians supported for president, Bernie Sanders, the so called hero of the common man.  But Sanders has come out squarely against both Jesus and Article 6 of the Constitution. Continue reading “Christian, would you fail the “religious test”?”

A stone of stumbling…a rock of offense

Romans 9:30–33 (ESV) (30) What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; (31) but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. (32) Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (33) as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

In case you hadn’t heard, the gospel is offensive.

1 Peter 2:7–8 (ESV) (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The gospel (good news) actually begins with bad news. Very bad news.

That bad news? You are a disobedient criminal (sinner, wicked, corrupt, pick whatever synonym you want) by nature and by choice.  Wanna hear worse news?  Payment for your crimes is demanded and will come due.

Can it get even worse?

Consider this … that payment that is due is made throughout eternity, with no chance of parole. No bail. No visitation.

Offended?

Nobody wants to hear that they are a criminal facing an eternal prison. Nobody wants to hear that no matter how hard they try, their best will never be good enough to earn them a stay of execution.

There is no reduced sentence for good behavior.

And lest you think it’s “just them”, this prison sentence isn’t just for Joe who thinks he’s a woman, Sue who married her girlfriend, Jim who he beat his wife, or Bob who’s a creeper, it’s all encompassing – the gospel leaves no room for “acceptable” rebellion …

Romans 3:10–19 (ESV) (10) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (13) “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (14) “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” (15) “Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) in their paths are ruin and misery, (17) and the way of peace they have not known.” (18) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (19) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Notice carefully what Paul says it is that causes of all of this – not that “Joe thinks he’s a woman” or “Sue married her girlfriend” or “Jim beat his wife” or “Bob looks at women lustfully.”

Far from it!  By quoting Isaiah, Paul says that the reason everyone has “become worthless” is not the individual ways in which sin manifests itself in our lives, it’s this:

“All have turned aside.”

We have all turned aside from and rejected God. We have all spit in his face. We have all thought that we know better. We have replaced the true God with ourselves.  Even when we thought more highly of ourselves.  Even when we thought that we didn’t really hate God when we only ignored Him most of the time.

Yeah … that was hatred.  Calling it something else to make yourself feel better about your rebellion doesn’t change what it is or was.

Rebellion.  God is your king regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it.

And we replaced Him with anything else because “Ain’t nobody telling me what I can and can’t do!”

And that rebellion, no matter how it plays out in our lives, is worthy of death.  Which leaves us with only two options (that is, if we don’t want the death penalty):

  1. I can pay for my own crimes for eternity
  2. someone else, someone who is able, can pay for my crimes

And here is why the gospel is good news.

The good news, though it starts off with a death sentence, ends with the hope of freedom! That the death sentence that we all deserve was already carried out, on a cross, 2000 years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Executed by the only righteous judge in the entire universe, against the only person in the entire universe whose humanity demonstrated that he deserved life – someone who willingly chose to take the bullet for his enemies.

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

There is only one way to be pardoned, one way to be free, and it goes right through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Acts 4:8–12 (ESV) (8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, (9) if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, (10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. (11) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (12) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

And yet, even in that great news, there is offense…

John 14:1–7 (ESV) (1) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The “no one” that Jesus is referring to is literally “no one.”  Not one person in existence.  Not one person who has ever lived, is currently living, or who will live from now until the end of time.  Not you, not me, not anybody in the history of forever has any hope throughout forever except through faith in Jesus.

Could it be that some of the best news of the gospel is perhaps the most offensive thing about it?  That you can do nothing to earn grace, nothing to deserve a pardon.  You can’t “out-good” your bad.  You can’t work off your sentence.

And perhaps the saddest thing is that we try so hard.  Only to fail so miserably.  It never ends well when we try to do Jesus’ job for Him.

And oh how we try.

Remember Paul’s admonition?  Remember the condemnation he proclaimed?  That we have all turned away from God?

Now hear the hope – turn away from yourself and trust in Jesus as your only hope of pardon, as your only escape from the eternal prison that awaits you, and set your eyes on this…

Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV) (1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (5) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He is powerful to make all things new.

Even you.

With their heads in the sand…

Christians know that the gospel is offensive. Isaiah says it. Jesus says it. Paul says it. The entirety of redemptive history testifies to it.

But that can’t stop us from proclaiming it …

(Galatians 5:11 ESV) But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

… and people hate it …

(John 3:18-20 ESV) [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

And we see that everywhere today – nobody wants to be called a sinner.  It’s not fun to face your sin and understand what it really is.

It’s not fun to be exposed.

Continue reading “With their heads in the sand…”