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What is the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13:16-17?

In Revelation 13, we read about two “beasts.” The first “beast” (Revelation 13:1-10) is a political and military power and describes the ancient Roman Empire and its ten European revivals (see our last Q&A on the number of the Beast). The second beast is introduced in Revelation 13:11 and describes a religious power. We state the following in chapter 14 of our free booklet, “The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation”

“This second beast had two horns. It looked like a lamb (Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb of God throughout the New Testament, compare John 1:29), but it spoke like a dragon (Remember that Satan is identified as a dragon in Revelation 12:3, 9). This second beast is obviously a religious power, which is influenced by Satan, while pretending to speak on behalf of Christ…

“We read in Revelation 13:14 that the second beast will make an ‘image’ to the first beast, which we identified as the Roman Empire. This passage found its fulfillment, historically, when the religious power of the second beast patterned itself after—made an image of—the governmental and political structure of the worldly power—the first beast—when it became a state in Rome, called the Vatican State, which would make contracts or treaties with other worldly governments; which also would send out their ambassadors and emissaries; and which would even have an army, including the Swiss guards, which fought against ‘heretics’ under the leadership of the Pope. It ultimately influenced and ‘inspired’ the first beast to put to death those who would not worship and follow the dictates of the Catholic Church.”

We are then introduced to the famous “mark of the beast.” We explain in our free booklet, “The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation!,” in chapter 15: 

“Revelation 13:16–17 explains that ‘the image’ of the second (religious) beast will cause people to accept ‘a mark’ of the first beast ‘on their right hand’ or ‘on their foreheads.’ Without it, they cannot buy or sell (compare Revelation 14:9).

“This mark of the first beast is clearly associated in Scripture with the violation of God’s Sabbath commandment (compare Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20; Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 58:13; Amos 8:5; Exodus 16:23, 26; Exodus 31:15). In the Bible, the ‘right hand’ is associated with work (Psalm 90:17; 137:5). The ‘forehead’ is the seat of thoughts (Ezekiel 3:8; 9:4; Revelation 7:3).

“We are told that the ‘little horn’—a reference to the Roman Catholic Church…—would try to ‘change times and law’ (Daniel 7:25)—that is, God’s law regarding holy time. The Roman Church has changed the calendar in Europe [in 1976], which identifies Sunday as the last day of the week, rather than the 7th-Day Saturday-Sabbath. It commands that Christians are to rest on Sunday, and it did command in the past that they were to work on Saturday. We will experience something similar very soon.

“The ‘image’ will influence the first beast—the final European revival of the ancient Roman Empire—to enjoin people to work on the Sabbath, while prohibiting to work on Sunday. As in the past, it will thereby ‘cause’ the death of true Christians (compare Revelation 13:15)…

“God warns us not to worship the beast and his image, and not to receive his mark on our forehead and on our hand (Revelation 14:9). If we do, we will ‘drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation’ (Revelation 14:10)…”

That the Catholic Church (the little horn) “changed” God’s law regarding holy time is even admitted by the Catholic Church itself. Archbishop James Cardinal Gibbons wrote in 1893 in the Catholic Mirror: “The Catholic church for over one thousand years before the existence of a Protestant, by virtue of her Divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday…. The Protestant world at its birth found the Christian Sabbath [Sunday] too strongly entrenched to run counter to its existence; it was therefore placed under the necessity of acquiescing in the arrangement, thus implying the [Catholic] Church’s right to change the day, for over 300 years. The Christian Sabbath [Sunday] is therefore to this day the acknowledged offspring of the Catholic Church…”

In addition, the Catholic Church Extension Society in Chicago published the following statement by Peter R. Kraemer, a Catholic priest: “We Catholics do not accept the Bible as the only rule of faith. Besides the Bible we have the living church, the authority of the church, as a rule to guide us…. We accept her change of the Sabbath to Sunday. We frankly say, yes, the church made this change, made this law, as she made many other laws…. It is always somewhat laughable, to see the Protestant churches, in pulpit and legislation, demand the observance of Sunday, of which there is nothing in their Bible.”

Regarding the mark of the beast, the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states that, “The mark may be, as in the case of the sealing of the saints in the forehead, not a visible mark, but symbolical of allegiance. So the sign of the cross in Popery. The Pope’s interdict has often shut out the excommunicate from social and commercial intercourse. Under the final Antichrist [the beast] this shall come to pass in its most violent form.”

In addition to the rejection of the weekly Sabbath, the mark of the beast includes, among other things, the rejection of God’s annual Holy Days [which are also called Sabbaths in the Bible, compare Leviticus 23], while the celebration of man’s pagan holidays will be enforced. We state this in “Biblical Prophecy–From Now Until Forever,” Chapter 4:

“Simply put, the mark of the beast is tantamount to a political and religious philosophy detrimental to the true worship of God. It includes the mandatory and legally enforced celebration of pagan religious holidays, such as Sunday, Christmas and Easter, and the rejection of God’s weekly and annual Holy Days, including the weekly Saturday-Sabbath and, for instance, the Feast of Tabernacles. It also includes humanly devised and ungodly ideas such as fighting in war or supporting and embracing a religion which preaches a false Jesus or a false gospel.”

It is important that we come out of the modern “Babylonian” system of religious and political confusion (Revelation 18:4). Modern “Babylon” includes the many false religious teachings of the fallen woman in Revelation 17 (compare verse 5)—the “second” beast—in conjunction with the many false political, military and economic concepts and activities of the “first” beast (Revelation 18:9, 11-14).

In our free booklet, Europe in Prophecy, beginning with page 18, we discuss the mark of the beast in much detail, as follows:

“The mark comes from the first beast. But the second beast causes all people to accept this mark. We can get a clue about its character from what has gone before in the Roman Empire and its revivals. Notice what historian Will Durant says in The Age of Faith, volume 4 of his renowned work, The Story of Civilization, about the Code of Justinian: ‘This Code, like the Theodosian, enacted orthodox Christianity into law. It began by declaring for the Trinity…. It acknowledged the ecclesiastical leadership of the Roman Church, and ordered all Christian groups to submit to her authority…. Relapsed heretics were to be put to death… and other dissenters were to suffer confiscation of their goods, and were declared incompetent to buy or sell, to inherit or bequeath; they were excluded from public office, forbidden to meet, and disqualified from suing orthodox Christians for debt’ (1950, p. 112).

In addition, the Catholic Church decreed in 364 A.D. that Christians must work on the Sabbath, and that they ought to rest on Sunday. Canon 29 of the Council of Laodicea stated the following:

“Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day [Sunday]; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”

In A.D. 597, Pope Gregory I labeled those who insist on the observance of the Sabbath as teachers of Antichrist: “It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist…”

Continuing with quoting from our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy”

“… those who were not orthodox Catholics were forbidden from buying and selling—i.e. conducting business… Thus, the mark of the Beast apparently means general participation in the worship system of the revived Roman Empire…

“The little horn [the Catholic Church] intended to change times and laws—indeed, to change the law regarding holy times—and persecuted God’s people who did not accept its change. God has commanded His people to keep certain times holy and, during these holy times, His people are not to engage in commerce. The little horn changed those times, replacing God’s holy times with times designated by man to be holy. A very obvious aspect of the mark of the Beast, then, will… revolve around worship days—indeed, this itself would impact days on which ‘buying and selling’ could be conducted. And the little horn, the woman riding the beast, will cause people to accept the mark of the Beast under pain of death.

“As in the past… the [fallen] woman will influence the political power of the Roman Empire to command people to work during God’s holy times, while prohibiting work at other times, thereby ‘causing’ (compare Revelation 13:15) true Christians who will refuse to comply to be put to death…

“In Revelation 20:4, John says, ‘Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.’

“Though the weekly and annual Sabbaths are holy to God and He commanded Christians to keep them, the little horn [the fallen woman] changed the law regarding holy times by substituting other worship days—replacing the weekly Sabbath with Sunday and the annual Sabbaths with traditional holidays like Easter and Christmas…

“Theologians and commentators alike know that Sabbath observance is biblical, and that Sunday observance was instituted without God’s authority… Swiss reformer, John Calvin, admitted that the Bible teaches the observance of the Sabbath, not of Sunday. But, like Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, he was unwilling to go back to Sabbath worship… The Roman Catholic Church knows full well and teaches that the Bible does NOT endorse or permit a change from Sabbath to Sunday worship.

“Recall now the mark of the Beast and how there would be severe penalties for those who would not accept that mark on their forehead or on their right hand… Failure to comply with the Roman system… will result in being forbidden to conduct business, which could put true Christians out on the street with no money to buy food. And the easiest way to identify someone’s religious convictions when it comes to keeping such [holy] days is to observe when he will and will not work or, if a business owner, when his business is open or closed.

“… the woman that rides the Beast, has been around for a long time, and has blatantly changed what God Himself sanctified. In the process, God’s annual Holy Days were discarded and pagan holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, were adopted. God specifically warned ancient Israel not to incorporate pagan elements in their worship of Him. He says in Deuteronomy 12:30-32, ‘Take heed to yourself… that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I will also do likewise.” You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods…. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it, you shall not add to it nor take away from it.’ The same warning is for us today!…

“Sunday was the day on which pagans worshiped their sun god since ancient times. That is where the name Sunday comes from. Easter was a feast of fertility for the goddess Astarte, also called Ishtar, Ostara or Eostre. Christmas was the holy day of Mithras, of Attis, and of other pagan gods. Remarkably, many pagan ‘saviors’ were supposedly born on December 25, killed on a Friday, and resurrected on a Sunday during Easter time. Christ Himself was not born in December, nor killed on a Friday nor resurrected on a Sunday. Rather, Scripture indicates, with the support of history, that He was born in early autumn, before the rainy season. He couldn’t have been born later than that because shepherds were still in the fields with their sheep. Records confirm that He was crucified on Wednesday and resurrected on Saturday, just before sunset, thereby fulfilling the only sign He gave—that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40)…

“Surprising as it may be to some, the Christmas tree is a relic of pagan tree worship, which is condemned in Jeremiah 10:3: ‘For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold, they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.’

“It is no secret that the early Roman Church absorbed pagan elements into their worship, and it was done in direct contradiction to God’s command not to do so. Why? To make the new faith attractive to Gentiles who were already steeped in pagan customs. These pagan customs were placed under a ‘Christian’ mantle so that they would have the appearance of being godly. Traditional Christianity clearly violates God’s command to not learn our ways of worship from the Gentiles, to not add pagan elements to holy worship, and to not delete godly elements that are to be observed, such as the weekly and annual Holy Days. Traditional Christianity has, in effect, accepted the mark of the Beast by embracing human traditions that violate God’s laws. And there have been voices over the centuries warning against such conduct.”

We also state in the afore-mentioned booklet that “accepting the mark of the Beast and rejecting the sign of God will affect your future. God commands us to watch the signs of the time and to pray always to be counted worthy to escape the horrible things in store for this world. God warns us to reject the mark of the Beast, and He commands us to keep His weekly and annual Sabbaths, the sign of His people.”

In the months and years ahead, it will become increasingly important for all of us to draw very near to God, to stand firm in the face of challenges and persecution, and to be faithful in observing God’s laws regarding the weekly and annual Sabbaths, which identify us as HIS people (Exodus 31:13, 17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20), while rejecting the religiously inspired “mark” of the revived Roman Empire, which will enforce the false religious doctrines of the fallen woman, rewarding those who will observe them, while persecuting those who won’t.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link