It is written:
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. 17 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. 18 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. (Revelation 13:16-18)
The Bible teaches that those who refused to take the mark of the beast were denied power to buy and sell.
What does this mean?
Has this already happened?
Is this a prophecy of the coronavirus vaccine?
What does this mean for us?
In previous lessons, we learned that the beasts of Revelation 13 are Rome and the false religions which sprang forth from Rome (including but not limited to Roman Catholicism). With that in mind, it will help us to learn more about the religious atmosphere of the first century.
In the Roman Empire, was a terrible religious movement which was known as “Caesar Worship.” Every citizen of Rome was required once a year to pay a special tribute to the Roman Caesar (the leader of the Roman Empire). By offering a pinch of incense and uttering the phrase, “Caesar Is Lord,” the citizen pronounced his loyalty and devotion to the belief that Caesar is God. The citizen would then be free to go and worship any god or goddess that he wanted to; but this act of devotion HAD to be made to the Caesar.
Of course, this presented a huge problem for Christians. Even though there are many ‘gods’ in the sense of fallen angels and demons masquerading as Divine (cf. Psalm 82), there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-5). To claim that the Caesar is God would be to deny Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:34-38). A Christian could not be faithful to Jesus Christ and still participate in “Caesar Worship.”
Speaking of the history of “Caesar Worship” and its’ connection with the context of the Book of Revelation, William Barclay has provided some excellent historical information:
“By the time of Revelation, Caesar-worship was the one religion which covered the whole Roman Empire; and it was because of their refusal to conform to its demands that Christians were persecuted and killed. Its essence was that the reigning Roman emperor, who was seen to embody the spirit of Rome, was divine. Once a year, everyone in the Empire had to appear before the magistrates to burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar and to say: ‘Caesar is Lord.’ After they had done that, people were able to go away and worship any god or goddess they liked, as long as that worship did not infringe decency and good order; but they had to go through this ceremony in which they acknowledged the emperor’s divinity. The reason was very simple. Rome had a vast and diverse empire, stretching from one end of the known world to the other. It had in it many languages, races and traditions. The problem was how to weld this varied mass into a unity. There was no unifying force such as a common religion, and none of the national religions could conceivably have become universal. Caesar-worship could. It was the one common act and belief which turned the Empire into a unity. To refuse to burn the pinch of incense and to say: ‘Caesar is Lord’ was not an act against religion; it was an act of political disloyalty. That is why the Romans dealt with the utmost severity with anyone who would not say: ‘Caesar is Lord.’ And Christians could never give the title Lord to anyone other than Jesus Christ. This was the centre of their creed. We must see how this Caesar-worship developed and how it was at its peak when Revelation was written…Caesar-worship did not begin with the deification of the emperor. It began with the deification of Rome. The spirit of the Empire was deified under the name of the goddess Roma. Roma stood for all the strong and benevolent power of the Empire….This worship was never intended to wipe out other religions. Rome was essentially tolerant. People might worship Caesar and their own god. But, more and more, Caesar-worship became a test of political loyalty; it became, as has been said, the recognition of the dominion of Caesar over an individual’s life and soul. Let us, then, trace the development of this worship up to, and immediately beyond, the writing of Revelation. (1) Augustus, who died in AD 14, allowed the worship of Julius Caesar, his great predecessor. He allowed non-citizens in the provinces to worship himself, but he did not permit citizens to do so; and he made no attempt to enforce this worship. (2) Tiberius (AD 14–37) could not halt Caesar-worship. He forbade temples to be built and priests to be appointed for his own worship; and, in a letter to Gython, a Laconian city, he definitely refused divine honours for himself. So, far from enforcing Caesar-worship, he actively discouraged it. (3) Caligula (AD 37–41), the next emperor, was an epileptic, a madman and a megalomaniac. He insisted on divine honours. He attempted to enforce Caesar-worship even on the Jews, who had always been and who always were to remain exempt from it. He planned to place his own image in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, a step which would certainly have provoked unyielding rebellion. Mercifully, he died before he could carry out his plans. But, in his reign, we have an episode when Caesar-worship became an imperial demand. (4) Caligula was succeeded by Claudius (AD 41–54), who completely reversed his insane policy. He wrote to the governor of Egypt – there were 1,000,000 Jews in Alexandria – fully approving the Jewish refusal to call the emperor a god and granting them full liberty to enjoy their own worship. On his accession to the throne, he wrote to Alexandria saying: ‘I deprecate the appointment of a high priest to me and the erection of temples, for I do not wish to be offensive to my contemporaries, and I hold that sacred fanes [temples] and the like have been by all ages attributed to the immortal gods as peculiar honours.’ (5) Nero (AD 54–68) did not take his own divinity seriously and did nothing to insist on Caesar-worship. It is true that he persecuted the Christians; but this was not because they would not worship him, but because he had to find scapegoats for the great fire of Rome. (6) On the death of Nero, there were three emperors in eighteen months – Galba, Otho and Vitellius – and in such a time of chaos the question of Caesar-worship did not arise. (7) The next two emperors, Vespasian (AD 69–79) and Titus (AD 79–81), were wise rulers, who made no insistence on Caesar-worship. (8) The coming of Domitian (AD 81–96) brought a complete change. He was a devil. He was the worst of all things – a cold-blooded persecutor. With the exception of Caligula, he was the first emperor to take his divinity seriously and to demand Caesar-worship. The difference was that Caligula was an insane devil; Domitian was a sane devil, which is much more terrifying. He erected a monument to ‘the deified Titus, son of the deified Vespasian’. He began a campaign of bitter persecution against all who would not worship the ancient gods – ‘the atheists’, as he called them. In particular, he launched his hatred against the Jews and the Christians. When he arrived in the theatre with his empress, the crowd were urged to rise and shout: ‘All hail to our Lord and his Lady!’ He behaved as if he himself were a god. He informed all provincial governors that government announcements and proclamations must begin: ‘Our Lord and God Domitian commands …’ Everyone who addressed him in speech or in writing must begin: ‘Lord and God.’ Here is the background of Revelation. All over the Empire, men and women had to call Domitian god – or die. Caesar-worship was the deliberate policy; all must say: ‘Caesar is Lord.’ There was no escape. What were the Christians to do? What hope did they have? Not many of them were wise, and not many of them were powerful. They had no influence or status. Against them had risen the might of Rome, which no nation had ever resisted. They were confronted with the choice – Caesar or Christ. It was to encourage men and women in such times that Revelation was written. John did not shut his eyes to the terrors; he saw dreadful things, and he saw still more dreadful things on the way; but beyond them he saw glory for those who defied Caesar for the love of Christ. Revelation comes from one of the most heroic ages in all the history of the Christian Church.”. (William Barclay, The Revelation Of John: Volume One, 17-22 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
Please consider how this ties in so powerfully with what we have seen in our previous lessons about the mark of the beast.
First century Christians (and those who came later) were in a very dangerous situation where they were forced to choose between loyalty to the Roman Empire and its’ false religions, or to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Contextually, the mark of the beast had nothing to do with microchips or barcodes, but to very real life situations of the early Christians in the Roman Empire (and by extension, to every Christian through the ages who is faced with choosing between the religion of Christ and the religions of the world).
Yet look more closely at what the text teaches regarding those who refuse to take the mark of the beast. We are told that they would lose the power to buy and to sell.
It is interesting to learn that in the Roman persecutions of the church, Christians who refused to engage in Caesar Worship were subjugated to several penalties, including the threat of immediate unemployment and seizure of lands and goods. The Christians were denied the right to own and engage in business, and hence they lost the power to “buy and sell.”
“For Christians at the time John wrote Revelation, worshiping or not worshiping the Roman powers was quickly becoming the dividing line between people who were acceptable in the community and people who weren’t. Not long after this time, some local officials introduced a formal requirement that unless you had offered the required sacrifices you weren’t allowed in the market. From quite early on the Christians were faced with a stark alternative: stay true to the Lamb and risk losing your livelihood, the ability to sell or buy; or capitulate to the monster, sacrifice to Caesar at the behest of the local officials, and then everything will be all right-except your integrity as one of the Lamb’s followers.” (N.T. Wright, Revelation: 22 Studies For individuals And Groups, 559-565 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)
Ramsay, in his studies of the persecution of the church in the Roman Empire, found compelling support of these facts also:
“The chief independent witness is Suetonius, who was certainly acquainted with the work of Tacitus, with whom he undoubtedly had personal acquaintance. He has apparently used and followed the authority of Tacitus in some few passages, and it is a quite fair assumption that he was acquainted with Tacitus’ view. Among a list of police regulations to ensure good order in Rome, he mentions the punishment of the Christians, a class of persons characterised by a novel and mischievous superstition. His list enumerates what he evidently considers as examples of good administration. They are all of the nature of permanent police regulations for maintaining order and good conduct. He mentions the sumptuary regulations, the institution of the sportula in place of the publica cena, the prohibition of the sale of any cooked food except vegetables in the cook shops, the infliction of punishments on Christians, the prohibition of the disorderly revels of the charioteers, etc. Every other regulation which is mentioned in the list is the permanent institution of a custom, or the lasting suppression of an abuse.”. (William M. Ramsay, The Church In The Roman Empire Before A.D. 170, 2188-2198 (Kindle Edition); Titus Books)
The mark of the beast has been here for a long, long time friends.
Every time one knowingly chooses false gods and goddesses over the one true God, he has taken the mark of the beast.
Every time one chooses false religions and religious practices over what the Word of God teaches, he has in essence taken the mark of the beast.
Whenever a person chooses politics or the politics of the world empires over what God says in His Word, he has in principle taken the mark of the beast.
Now, let’s apply this to the coronavirus vaccine.
Have those who have not taken the vaccine been deprived of their right to buy and sell?
Are people starving because they have not taken the vaccine?
Have people lost their right to hold a business because they have not taken the coronavirus vaccine?
To ask is to answer.
The coronavirus vaccine is not the mark of the beast.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.