The mark of the beast mentioned in Rev. 13 & 14 has been an enigma for many, and apparently is closely tied up with human destiny. The two texts read, "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark of the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: his number is 666." Rev. 13:16-18. Verses 14,15 say that this power would make an image to the beast that rises from the sea, "and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed."
1) This is indeed a special and serious message, affecting everybody. Does it deal with something in the past, or future?
Answer: It is a conflict that will involve the whole world in the future. Because nothing so serious has ever happened in ancient or modern history. Firstly, we note that this second beast must be a religio-political power, because it requires people to worship an image, and also has power to enforce economic sanctions. Rev. 14:12 implies that the mark of the beast is in conflict with God's law. For after forbidding people to receive the mark of the best, an angel says that the patience of the saints is to "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
The world has always been divided into two classes of people: those who keep God's law, and those who break it. One group obey God, another group obey Satan. The devil is the prince of the world of law-breakers, and wants to destroy them who keep the law. These obedient ones will trust in God for strength to gain the final victory. The battle over the mark of the beast will decide the final outcome. World history is rushing toward this great climax.
Another clue helps us to identify the mark of the beast. Aside from the context of the commandments of God, the first angel calls on everyone to "worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." Every sensible person can see that this refers to the Sabbath, which is the official seal on the Ten Commandments. Ezek. 20:12 says, "Moreover I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them." "Sign," "seal" and "mark" are synonyms. The "seal of the living God"(the Sabbath) of Rev. 7:2,3 is placed on the foreheads of His servants, while the mark of the beast (Sunday) is placed on people's foreheads or right hands.
2) Please give us the background of the prophecy of the mark of the beast, and explain who the beast and its image are.
Answer: Let us begin with Daniel 7. The lion, bear, leopard and odd beast represent the four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The first beast of Revelation 13 is a blend of these four beasts, having their seven heads (the leopard has four) and the ten horns of the fourth beast. The little horn of Daniel 7 is the head of the beast in Rev. 13, which had a deadly wound and was healed. This wound was fulfilled when the pope of Rome was arrested in 1798 and later died in France. The healing of the wound is evident in the rising popularity of the pope in modern times.
Another beast in Rev. 13, "coming up out of the earth" with "two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon," typifies the United States, which grew up on a new continent when the first beast received its deadly wound. Her lamb-like horns typify her ideals of freedom and democracy, yet she speaks like the dragon, which is the devil. She will in due time make an image to the first beast---follow its example in forming a union of Church and State. The Roman church has always exalted Sunday as evidence of the superiority of church authority over the Bible. Since the council of Trent in the 16th century, she has boasted that Sunday is observed by all the world, so claims it as the mark of her authority.
The American beast with lamb-like horns, will follow Rome in colluding with the State. "The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience. . .
"The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable. Church members love what the world loves and are ready to join with them, and Satan determines to unite them in one body and thus strengthen his cause by sweeping all into the ranks of spiritualism. Papists, who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church, will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power; and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded. Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium." The Great Controversy,p. 588.
3) Please explain how and when the prophecy of Rev. 13:17 will be fulfilled: "no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark of the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Answer: This has not yet happened in 1999. When it does occur, there will be stringent economic sanctions. The decisive factor will be whom you worship. All who worship God will receive a mark on the forehead, showing that he is consciously loyal to God. The mind is in the forehead. The hand stands for deeds. God wants intelligent homage. The mark of the beast is on the forehead or the hand, meaning that the beast will require only outward submission, just like Nebuchadnezzar, who required people only to bow down to his image. See Dan. 3:5.
God plainly says that the Sabbath is His sign of allegiance. See Exod. 16:4; Ezek. 20:12. His antagonist the pope of Rome uses Sunday as proof of his authority. The final scenes foretold in the texts just quoted are now taking shape.
"Fearful is the issue to which the world is to be brought. The powers of earth, uniting to war against the commandments of God, will decree that 'all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond' (Rev. 13:16), shall conform to the customs of the church by the observance of the false Sabbath. All who refuse compliance will be visited with civil penalties, and it will finally be declared that they are deserving of death. On the other hand, the law of God enjoining the Creator's rest day demands obedience and threatens wrath against all who transgress its precepts.
"With the issue thus clearly brought before him, whoever shall trample upon God's law to obey a human enactment receives the mark of the beast; he accepts the sign of allegiance to the power which he chooses to obey instead of God. . . .
"But not one is made to suffer the wrath of God until the truth has been brought home to his mind and conscience, and has been rejected. There are many who have never had an opportunity to hear the special truths for this time. The obligation of the fourth commandment has never been set before them in its true light. He who reads every heart and tries every motive will leave none who desire a knowledge of the truth, to be deceived as to the issues of the controversy. The decree is not to be urged upon the people blindly. Everyone is to have sufficient light to make his decision intelligently.
"The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. . . .
"Heretofore those who presented the truths of the third angel's message have often been regarded as mere alarmists. Their predictions that religious intolerance would gain control in the United States, that church and state would unite to persecute those who keep the commandments of God, have been pronounced groundless and absurd. It has been confidently declared that this land could never become other than what it has been---the defender of religious freedom. But as the question of enforcing Sunday observance is widely agitated, the event so long doubted and disbelieved is seen to be approaching, and the third message will produce an effect which it could not have had before." The Great Controversy, p. 604-606.
4) In studying the Sabbath many times, are we not overdoing it and departing from the central theme of the Bible?
Answer: In stressing the Sabbath, we have not departed from the central theme of the Bible. What is the central theme of the Old and New Testament Scriptures? Is it not to worship the true God and not to worship false gods? Is not all the sin, suffering and death in this world the result of man obeying false gods to disobey the true God? The Sabbath has been repeatedly profaned and repeatedly restored. It is in fact a war between the true God and false gods. 1 Cor. 4:9 says, "we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men." The actors on this stage are we people, but in backstage God and the devil are directing their actions. The closing scenes are depicted in Rev. 12,13,14. On one side are worshipers of the beast and his image, on the other are they who "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." They preach the message, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." A third angels says, "If anyone worship the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb."
The day that God sanctified when He created the heavens and the earth, will be the sign of loyalty to Him in the last day, while a day opposed to the Sabbath will be a sign of disloyalty to Him. When the great controversy reaches its final stage, every man must decid where to stand: on God's side or on the devil's? There is no neutral ground.
"If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God." Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church,Vol. 3, p. 281.
5) What recent noteworthy event marks a change in the inimical relations between Protestants and Catholics, and indicates a definite trend of Catholics and Protestants working for a common goal?
Answer: Modern "Evangelical" churches are in fact the heirs of the Protestant reformation of the Middle Ages. For 400 years they were openly anti-Catholic. But in the 20th century the "deadly wound" the pope received in the French revolution has healed. He is now a popular figure in world affairs. The Feb. 24, 1992 issue of Time magazine had a picture of him with U.S. president Reagan under the title of "Holy Alliance." Pope John Paul II was lauded as having used the Polish workers' Solidarity movement to subvert the Communist bloc in eastern Europe. The prestige of the pope got another boost. On March 29, 1994, 40 prominent leaders of Catholic and Evangelical churches in America signed a document: "Evangelical and Catholics Together," uniting on common points of faith to enter the 21st century.
6) In John 17 Jesus prayed for the disciples, that they might be one. Now His prayer is answered, isn't that nice?
Answer: In that prayer for unity, Jesus also prayed that they might be sanctified by the truth. Truth must be the basis of their unity. People use the slogan of "Seek for common ground, retain the differences," but they should "Seek for large similarities and retain small differences." The Sabbath is not a small issue, for it is the greatest of the commandments, and cannot be compromised. "If unity could be secured only by compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war." The Great Controversy, p. 45. This principle must be maintained.
7) Are there any indications to show that these united churches are working for the exaltation of Sunday and the formation of the image of the beast?
Answer: On May 31, 1998, pope John Paul II issued his apostolic letter DIES DOMINI, a 41 page document "On Keeping the Lord's Day Holy." In the first paragraph he says, "It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of 'the new creation' (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world's first day and looks forward in active hope to 'the last day', when Christ will come in glory and all things will be made new." The second paragraph quotes Ps. 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps 118:24). This is clever deception. The Chinese call it "putting Zhang's hat on Li's head." When Satan tempted Jesus to leap from the temple dome, he also quoted Scripture, saying: "It is written, 'He shall give His angels charge concerning you, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " He omitted one clause, "to keep you in all your ways." God never told us to risk our necks needlessly.
Now the pope also misapplies Scripture. Many Bible texts say that the day God made is the seventh-day Sabbath. In his letter the pope first writes many lines to exalt Sunday, then quotes Ps 118:24, "This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it," In this way he hoodwinks his readers. This tactic is not only used by the pope. Robert Schuler the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, makes it his habit to open every Sunday service by repeating this text. He is another example of Evangelicals and Catholics together! The practice of calling Sunday the "Lord's day" is contrary to Scripture. Isa. 58:13 and many other texts call the Sabbath "the holy day of the Lord." Not a single line in the Bible calls the first day the "Lord's day." Yet people insist on following their own tradition. God says, "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Matt 15:9.
8) In what way does the pope's Apostolic Letter differ from past arguments of the Catholic church? Do other churches agree with the pope's point of view? What light do you have on the number of the beast, 666?
Answer: One peculiarity of this letter is that it takes all Bible texts on the Sabbath and applies them on Sunday. In section 63 it says, "This is why Christians, called as they are to proclaim the liberation won by the blood of Christ, felt that they had the authority to transfer the meaning of the Sabbath to the day of the Resurrection." In the past, Catholic writers asserted that the Catholic church had the authority to change the Sabbath to Sunday. Now this pope diffuses the authority to all Christians, thereby hoping to draw as many Christian groups as possible to stand with him.
In section 66,67 he writes, "In this matter, my predecessor Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum spoke of Sunday rest as a worker's right which the State must guarantee. . . . Therefore, also in the particular circumstances of our own time, Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy."
Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition, wrote a letter to Coalition members in August, 1998, saying, "Concerning Pope John Paul's July Encyclical, "Sunday (Lord's Day)." I too heartily agree with this world's great spiritual leader, "it is time to give Sunday the Day of Worship the recognition it demands. It is time to pass our legislated agenda and stop profaning" The Lord's Day. Rev. 1:10. Somebody?some people, who do care about the moral crisis of our nation must act to save our nation before it is forever late."(from xerox copy of undated letter written on Christian Coalition stationery, opening with words, "August 17, 1998 was a very good day for America.") The Lord's Day Alliance, an organization supported by many Christian denominations, works for Sunday legislation whereby all people will be forced to worship on the "Lord's day," hoping in this way to curb moral declension. The Clinton impeachment crisis also served to rouse Christians to urge for pertinent legislation on social morals.
The Latin name of the pope is VICARIVS FILII DEI (Vicar of the Son of God). Latin is the official language of the Roman church. The Romans used certain letters of the alphabet as numbers. Adding the letters that have numerical values, we have V= 5; I = 1; L = 50; C = 100; D = 500; L + C + D = 650; V + V = 10; 6 x I = 6. The total comes to 666.
We earnestly call on all that love the Lord to decide now to receive His seal, and refuse the mark of the beast.