Recently some Christians have been worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine because they believe it is “the mark of the animal” (AKA the mark of the beast). I won’t post links to these people because I don’t want to further their platform but this kind of thinking is not new. I remember talking with a friend over 30 years ago who claimed that the mark of the beast was the UPC codes found on almost all products you can buy in the store. Others have claimed that RFID chips are the mark. When we realise that John was writing a letter to people alive in the 1st century, and therefore needed to be understood and relevant to them, we see that none of these interpretations are true because they are made using technology that hadn’t yet been discovered in the 1st century (both barcodes and RFID chips were developed in 1973). The same can be said for vaccines, which weren’t discovered by Edward Jenner until about 1798.
Lots has been written by scholars that show that interpreting the COVID-19 vaccines as the mark of the beast is wrong (here, here, & here for example). I would like to approach the issue from a different perspective, and that is that there are in fact two biblical examples of marks that are to be placed on the right hand and/or the forehead. The first mark is a good mark.
Exodus 13:9, talking about remembering the day Israel left Egypt, says, “This ⌊festival⌋ will be ⌊like⌋ a mark on your hand or a reminder on your forehead that the teachings of the LORD are ⌊always⌋ to be a part of your conversation. Because the LORD used his mighty hand to bring you out of Egypt,”
Ezekiel 9:4 says, “The LORD said to that person, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan about all the disgusting things that are being done in the city.’”
Perhaps the most significant other verse is found in Revelation 14:1 where we read, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” This verse is immediately following the verse talking about the mark of the Beast.
We can see that the first mark is given to those who share in the Lord’s good work. They remember His saving works, they grieve over the things that grieve Him, and they are identified with the Lamb and His Father.
This is then contrasted with a mark placed on the foreheads of those who swear allegiance in the other direction — to the “beast.” This we see in Revelation 14:9-12 where having the mark and worshipping the beast go hand in hand.
As I wrote a few months ago, “It got me thinking about the “mark of the animal” and I wondered if having the mark on your forehead and right hand is in essence having faith in government as gospel rather than Jesus as gospel? The gospel genre in the Bible is, after all, a political genre developed by the Roman Emperors to show how great they were.”
So now that we have identified these two marks we need to ask ourselves what do these marks look like?
There are several lists of various marks of the spirit, the most famous — called fruit — in Galatians 5:22-23 — “But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that.” The connection between the fruit of the Spirit and the mark comes from the idea of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit by His personal presence permanently identifies & secures every believer in the body of Christ. This is discussed in Ephesians 1:13. The very mark spoken of above is in fact the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. Thus their actions — their fruit — serve as evidence of the mark.
Galatians 5 actually has two lists. The other (vv 19-21) is a list of the “effects of the corrupt nature” and includes “… illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. I’ve told you in the past and I’m telling you again that people who do these kinds of things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” Two things to note. These are “obvious” and those who do these obvious things “will not inherit God’s kingdom. This seems to connect pretty closely to the charateristics of a mark (obvious) and its results (not a part of God’s kingdom).
In a nutshell, rather than the vaccine (or anything else) being the mark of the beast, it is actually the fruits of our lives that reveal where our allegiance lies. The marks are indicators of loyalty and identity. The fruit of the spirit confirm that we have been sealed by the Spirit but the effects of the corrupt nature reveal that we have been marked with the Beast’s number. Thus, if we have identified ourselves with Christ and remain loyal to him then we don’t have the mark of the animal but His mark.
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Image by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash.
Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society.
Used by permission.
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