Reading

The book of Revelation is intended to be read aloud in one sitting. Therefore, when reading Revelation, we should focus on the general sense of each vision, and get that first. Who is the main character? Who does it represent? How does it fit with what God is doing? Once we understand the main character, the rest of the vision will become clear.

When analysing Revelation deeper, we should look at one vision at a time, not verse by verse. A vision usually begins with John saying, "Then I saw" or an angel showed me, or similar words. When studying a vison, we should ask who is the main character or event. What is the vision telling us about that character or event. For example, Revelation 12 is about a woman. The details indicate the woman is Israel. Once the main character is known, we can ask what the passage tells us about the outcomes of their actions. What did they achieve?

Only once we have the general theme should we go on to the detail. The detail will become clearer when we understand who/what it is about. For example, the wilderness in Revelation 12 is symbolic. It is not a real wilderness in a particular place. It represents a place of purification for the children of Israel. The outcome of the vision is that Israel goes into exile, but is kept safe by God in this hostile environment.

False Prophet

We should not interpret the mark of the beast in isolation from the rest of the vision. The first step is to identify the two main characters. They are the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth.

The Beast from the Sea is the Roman Empire (Rev 13:1-10). It conquered the Roman Republic. John is warned that the empire will die, but it will eventually come back to life out of a restored republic, that morphs into a democratic empire. The explanation of how this empire comes to power is given in the next vision (Rev 13:11-18). The key to understanding this vision is to identify the Beast from the earth. John calls this beast the "False Prophet".

This Beast from the earth looked like a lamb but spoke like a dragon. Its appearance was totally misleading.

Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed (Rev 13:11-13).

This beast had "two horns like a lamb". The two horns signify enormous worldly power, but there is an interesting twist. In Revelation, the lamb is Jesus, so it appears to represent Jesus. However, it speaks like a dragon. This shows that it is actually working for the devil. John saw an empire that appeared to be good, but is doing the devil's work.

This second beast will carry on in the role of the Roman Empire, but it will seem to be doing good. The beast with horns like a lamb represents a Christian organisation that exercises control over much of the world in a similar way to the Roman Empire.

Christendom

John saw the emergence of Christendom as a unifying force in the world. When the Rome Empire collapsed, the world broke up into numerous principalities, kingdom and feudal fiefdoms that each did their own thing. However, another worldwide organisation emerged in the place of Rome. While under Roman protection, the church had morphed into a huge and powerful organisation. When the empire fell away, the church quickly stepped into the gap and began using force and coercion to maintain order on earth.

The church became the strongest advocate for political power This was a strange role for the church, because Jesus had refused to use force and coercion to establish his Kingdom. For the first few hundred years, his people followed his example, and many paid the price with their lives. However, when persecution ended and the church became part of the political power system, it moved quickly from service and suffering to reliance on power and control.

This beast represents the emergence of the church at the centre of political power. The church became the most powerful and most pervasive organisation in the world, so it is correct to say that it "exercised all of the authority of the first beast. The season when the church held political power lasted for next ten centuries.

The church achieved a great deal of by using political power, but this beast is described as a "false prophet" in Revelation 19:20, because it led God's people in the wrong direction. The structure and control of human bureaucracy replaced the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit.

Image of the Beast

The emergence of humanism weakened the influence of Christendom but the second beast did not die. Instead, it emerged in a new form.

He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed (Rev 3:14,15).
The beast that was wounded and appeared to die was the Roman Republic. The false prophet sets up an image of this beast. This not a real beast, but it does look like the beast. The image of the beast will eventually be greater than the Roman Empire and its power will extend far beyond any previous empire.

The source of this beast's power will be totally different from those that went before. The Roman Empire was a military empire, sustained by the ruthless force of the Roman legions. Anyone who opposed the empire would be forced to submit with ruthless violence. The new empire will get its power in a different way. Instead of being conquered by force, the people of the world will freely surrender to it.

He deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived (Rev 13:14).
The people of the world will be deceived into serving the image of the beast. They will freely submit to a democratic empire, because it offers all of the benefits of previous empires, but seems to be good.

Prophets speak to kings and warn them about their mistakes. False prophets have faith in political power, so they encourage it, rather than challenging it. This false prophet, encourages the people of the world to trust in political power. When the Democratic Empire is taking power, the church will declare that God is blessing this move. Although the new empire relies on human wisdom and power, the church will declare that God is using this good political power to bring in his kingdom.

The new Democratic Beast deceived all the peoples of the earth (Rev 13:14).
Anyone who refuses to honour the Democratic Beast will be destroyed (Rev 13:15).

Mark of the Beast

The Democratic Beast uses economic power to assert control over the nations and peoples of the earth. John saw everyone on earth being forced to take the mark that represents the Beast. This is a situation where individuals do not have any choice. Regardless of their status, they are forced into a place that they might not choose.

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.(Rev 13:16-17).
The only way this could happen is if the requirements of the Beast are accepted by the leaders of the nations and imposed on the people. The people of the nations will have no choice. Entire nations are forced to submit to the Democratic Beast. This aligns with Daniel 7 where the beast tramples other beast (nations).

Spiritual Control

The mark is not a literal mark but is the symbol of being a slave. In biblical times, a slave owner branded his slaves with a name or a symbol. A mark on the forehead or right hand was a confirmation that the person was a slave. It was a record of the slaveowner who owned the slave.

The mark of the beast is not a physical mark, but a reference to spiritual control. The people of the nations submitting to the democratic empire are controlled by political spirits that obey a Cosmos Dominator spirit called "Beast". This spirit wants to control all the nations. The mark the power and control the Beast gains when people freely submit to it.

Spiritual Allegiance

The mark of Beast parallels the seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 chosen from Israel (Rev 7:1-8). This number represents the fulness of Israel (Rom 11:12). It points to a time when all Israel will come to faith in Jesus. John saw a seal being put on their foreheads. The seal was not a physical mark, but a representation of a decision to follow Jesus. The seal on followers of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).
The Holy Spirit is the mark of those who follow Jesus. John says that the 144,000 were marked with the seal are "the bond servants of God" (Rev 7:3).

The account of the mark of the beast is followed by a reference to the 144,000 marked by God.

Before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads (Rev 14:1).
The people with the father's name written on their forehead are contrasted with those who have the name of the Beast written on their forehead. John is explaining that the former are sealed by the Holy Spirit, whereas the latter are controlled by political spirits and government powers.

Jesus promised John that overcomers would have the name of God written on them.

I will write on them the name of my God (Rev 3:12).
They go into the presence of God after the final judgement.
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads (Rev 22:4).
Those who are loyal to Jesus have his mark on their foreheads. Those follow the beast have his mark on their forehead as a symbol of their loyalty.

Thinking and Doing

The meaning of the mark is explained in Deuteronomy 11:18.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Moses was speaking about the laws that God had given through him. He commanded the people to write symbols of the law on their hands and forehead to remind them of God's law. The forehead represents thinking. The hand represents actions. Symbols on the hand and the forehead indicate that all thought and action is done in terms of God's law. All their thinking and activity should be shaped by God's law.

The thought and action of followers of Jesus are shaped by the Holy Spirit. The followers of the beast have their thought and action shaped by human laws.

Hands and foreheads ▶ acceptance of the human laws of the Beast.
The Mark of the Beast is a symbol. The people in Deuteronomy placed the symbols on their own hands and forehead. Followers of Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). God did it for them. The followers of the beast have no choice. They are forced to obey human laws, so the symbol of human law is described as being put on them.

Name Mark Number

The number of the beast needs wisdom.

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 600 60 6 (Rev 13:18).
The number of the beast is not a literal number, but a symbol representing a human hierarchy of power. The name, mark or number of the beast is a way of expressing the power of a human government.

The number is:

Six hundred
Sixty
Six.
It is the number of a man (Rev 13:18). Six is the number representing humanness. The number of the beast can be expressed as follows.
6 x 100
6 x 10
6 x 1.
If six is the number of man, this is a hierarchical governing structure with many people appointing a small number of people who appoint a leader. This is a representation of a republican government that becomes an empire imposing authority from the top down.

This is the opposite of the Government of God. When Moses led the people into the Promised Land, he set up a system of judges applying God's law, among tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands (Ex 18:21; Deut 1:15). The basic unit was the family, represented as a ten. They joined together voluntarily in fifties and hundreds for social support and protection. They submitted voluntarily to a local judge to resolve disputes and deal with crime. Fifties and Hundreds would join together to form a Thousand for defence by submitting voluntarily to a temporary military leader. This was Free Authority submitted from below, not imposed from the top.

The Beast of Revelation operates in the opposite way. One person rules, but is put in place by an elite, who are put in place by the people. This is a democratic empire. Imposed Authority comes down from the top with threats of death for those who do not submit. This is confirmed in Rev 19:18, where kings are accompanied by chiliarchs, who are commanders of Thousands.

Economic Power

The Beast of Revelation manifests in various ways. One manifestation is an Economic Empire, in which the beast controls all buying and selling. The nations are unable to buy or sell without permission of beast (Rev 13:17).

Controlling buy and selling ▶ Powerful government controlling the world economy.

The Mark of the beast symbolises political management of the economy. Traditional empires imposed massive taxes and collected them harshly, but they did not attempt to control other aspects of economic activity. They let businesses do what they liked, but made sure they captured a big share of the profits. They did not care if businesses were dishonest, because they could demand a bigger share of any corrupt gains.

In contrast, this beast seeks to control every aspect of economic life. It sets prices and sets rules that businesses must comply with. Over the last century, we have seen a vast increase in interference in the economy by human governments.

Economic and Financial Control

When studying the Mark of the Beast, Christians focus on the technique used (the mark) rather than the outcome. The outcome is clear. People and nations are unable to buy and sell without the permission of the democrat beast (liberal hegemon). John described this outcome clearly. This is the important message of the vision. He saw a great political power waging war and controlling the world using economic weapons.

The technique by which control is accomplished is less important, because it is determined by the legal situation at the time when it will be fulfilled. John did not know how societies would change over time, so he did not understand the techniques by which this vision could be achieved in the future. So, he described it in terms of words and images that he understands.

Marking people with an image/stamp was the way that empires and slaveowners controlled people in John's time. So that is the way that John described the techniques used by the empire to impose control.

Focussing on the technique is a mistake, because the Beast will use whatever tools that are available at the time when the vision is being fulfilled. A modern empire can use tariffs, import controls, quality standards and documentation requirements to limit trade. The United States can also use the SWIFT system that banks use for international transfers to control trade. These are a practical implementation of the Mark of the Beast.

Name is a Number

The number is an important clue, because it suggests that the vision will be fulfilled in a time when people, businesses and nations are represented by numbers, or more importantly digits in a computer program. The beast has a number. Every other person has a number. This is the situation in the modern world. When buying and selling in trade, people and business are represented by a number issued by their bank or credit card company. John saw a situation where a powerful political power used the numbers issued in replace of names to prevent people and business from buying and selling.

The democratic beast takes economic control a step further and determines which nations can buy and sell. The government of the United States is able to do this using the SWIFT system. No previous empire has had that power.

Identity of the Beast

People get obsessed with the number. The number was just a technique by which political power accomplish the outcome that John visualised. We should be focusing on the outcome, and the identity of the political power that imposes it, not on the technique, which would depend on the legal and financial institutions at the time. The structure of the number is a clue to the identity of the Beast. The Beast is a government that restored the republican form of Government that Rome adopted before Julius Caesar overthrew it and turned Rome into an empire. The number of the Beast has three digits. The republican form of Government is confirmed by this number. If it were a democracy, the number would be 600, 6, with the many represented by one. Rather it is a republican government with mediating institutions. The many are represented by a few, who choose the one who rules over them.

Sanctions

The United States is currently the most powerful nation and strongest economy that the world has ever seen. It controls the financial and banking systems that are used by all the nations of the world. In addition to exercising military power in many nations, it uses its place at the centre of the world financial system to control other nations. Presidents have begun preventing people and nations from using the SWIFT system for interbank transactions, which prevents them from trading.

Nations that do not submit to the American Beast are not allowed to trade. Sanctions are imposed on nations that will not submit to the dictates of the United States to prevent them from trading. Nothing like this has been done before. The irony is that the nation that claims to be the champion of free-market economics is blocking people from buying and selling. This suggests that the Mark of the Beast is already in place.

These sanctions are directed at nations, but they are imposed on people and businesses. The list of people and businesses that are banned is thousands of pages long. Some of the bans have been in place for nearly fifty years. Businesses in other nations are also prevented from trading with them too. The United States uses control of the financial system to prevent people and companies from other nations trading with the nations on the list of baddies. This change is spreading the net of sanctions much wider.

The Church provided moral support for this behaviour by declaring that the sanctioned nations are evil. Many churches advocate the full use of economic power to implement American power in the world, but their selection of targets is highly selective. The Beast decides which nations can buy and sell.

Recently, the United States has begun a trade war with some of its allies. It is imposing heavy tariffs on China, Canada and the European Union with the aim of preventing certain types of buying and selling. It is also imposing controls on the transfer of intellectual property.

John said that the people of the world would be deceived. The United States claims to be a leader of the free world and claims to be a staunch advocate of free trade, yet it is acting to limit the free flow of trade. This is probably what John saw in his vision?

Brands

We must remember that:

Mark = Brand

The key to the success of a multinational corporation is its brand name or trademark. These brands or trademarks are the most valuable assets of most large corporations. Coca Cola's brand is more valuable than the Coke recipe or the company's physical assets. If something gave Coca Cola a negative image in the minds of consumers, so it was no longer "cool", the profits of the company could be destroyed.

The power of brands is backed up by American trademark, patent and copyright laws. Companies based in the United States control most of the important brands.

The economic empire persuades or forces people all over the world to buy goods that carry its brands or marks. People everywhere, whether rich or poor, are buying or wearing the same American brands or labels. Young people, even in the poorest countries, wear Rip Curl shirts and Nike shoes. The same makes of car are seen in every city in the world. The same television programs are watched all over the world. This uniformity has sometimes been called as McDonaldisation.

The whole of life will be dominated by a number of brands or labels. In his vision, John saw a time when it would not be possible to buy anything that does not have the brand or trademark of a large American multinational corporation on it.

The mark of the beast is a pyramid. It is really three numbers: 600, 60 and 6. This tells us something about the American economic empire. It will start as a large number of independent corporations (600). Gradually the number of corporations will reduce to a smaller number, as the powerful ones take over those that are weaker (60). In the end, there will be just a few (6).

A great irony is that churches have also established brands like pentecostal, evangelical or "in the river". Many of these brands are elitist and manifest self-righteousness.

Conspiracy

Christians are always looking for a conspiracy, but the emergence of this economic beast is not a conspiracy. This beast does not use force or conspiracy to gain control. It gets control because people want the benefits that economic globalisation brings. We have elected the beast. We vote for the virtual beast every time we spend a dollar. Every dollar spent on a Reebok shirt, Nike shoes, a car from one of the big carmakers, is a vote for the economic beast. This is not being forced on us. We are choosing the beast, because it gives us what we want.

Christians are often afraid of this beast, but they expect it to come in the future. However, it is already among us, and we have submitted to it. Anyone who wears a hat with Nike on the forehead, or a shirt with Reebok on the arm, or sends and email that says "sent by iPhone", already has the mark of the beast.

The economic beast does not need to seize power; it is given power. The people of the world trust this beast to provide them with what they want. They are glad to submit to it, for what it will give them. The authority of the beast will come from below, because people or nations will surrender to it freely. There will be no force. Yet there will be a tremendous exercising of authority that will eventually cause the nations and peoples to hate the beast and rebel.

Go to American Beast.