The Mark and Number of the Beast
The second beast of Revelation 13 will cause "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 or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (verses 16-17).
What is behind this strange-sounding practice? How will it affect people as the time of the end draws near?
There is historical evidence that, in the ancient Babylonian culture, slaves "were identified ... [by] some kind of mark, either tattooed or branded on the face or the back of the hand ..." (H.W.H. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon, 1962, p. 173). There may be parallels between this ancient practice and what God reveals will happen in the end time.
Many have speculated about the meaning of this puzzling prophecy. Some interpret it in terms of supercomputers, unique personal identity numbers and even microchips embedded under the skin. Considering the rapid pace of scientific change, it may well involve technologies that haven't yet been invented.
Many Bible students believe that forced observance of Sunday—a day originally dedicated to the worship of the sun as a god instead of the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath—will be a likely identifying sign of the beast. This view is strengthened by the fact that other prophecies in the book of Revelation show a great counterfeit religious figure and system will play major roles in leading people away from the true God and play into Satan's hands at this time.
The Bible does not explicitly define the specific methods that the beast will use to identify those free to participate in commerce at the time of the end. Revelation, however, does explain which parts of their bodies—their hands and heads—will be used in identifying them.
However this prophecy is fulfilled, it is clear that it will involve compromising and contradicting God's commands. Having proof that one is officially associated in some way with the beast will be necessary for one to be allowed to engage in commerce. Exactly how the end-time number of the beast, 666, will be used and applied is not yet clear. But in some way it will be associated with his name and applied to his evil activities.
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