For the past 14+ months, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a lot of restrictions and constraints. For a good part of that time, we in Ontario have been under lockdowns, shutdowns, or stay-at-home orders. When the CDC and other drug regulatory agencies across the globe began to give the green flag for vaccines from various pharmaceutical companies, there was an understandable prospect of hope, the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” At the same time, there has been skepticism and uncertainty about the safety of the vaccines, given the speed with which they were developed or the efficacy they will have on the virus variants. And then for some, there is a concern that it is not just a vaccine, but could it be the mark of the beast?
I am not a medical doctor, an infectious disease expert, a virologist, nor any other type of expert when it comes to viruses and their treatment. And so I will make no effort to sway you with a yea or nay regarding the vaccine. Let each one do their own due diligence and ask trusted medical personnel and proceed as you deem best for you and your family. What I do want to focus on for a few minutes here is the concern about the Covid-19 vaccine being the mark of the beast. Let us consider what the Scriptures say on this topic.
Before we look at Revelation 13 which speaks of the dragon, two beasts, and the mark of the beast, let’s acknowledge that Revelation was written to a first century audience. John said these were “things which must shortly take place” (1:1) and again “the time is near” (1:3). John wrote to churches in his day (ch. 2-3) about things they would see, experience, and endure. Any interpretation of Revelation which ignores a late first century / early second century fulfillment to much of what is written has missed the mark. Does that mean there is nothing in the book for us? No, as with all of God’s word, there are principles, lessons, and applications for us in our day also, but we cannot ignore John’s original audience in our zeal for the book.
In Revelation 13, we read of a beast rising out of the sea. It’s intimidating and given power, a throne, and authority from the dragon (v 1-2). The beast has a mortal wound which is healed, speaks blasphemies, and causes people to worship both the dragon and the beast itself (v 3-6, 8). Meanwhile, he wars with and has victory over the saints (v 7). As bleak as it sounds, there is hope. Revelation 13:10 reveals the beast will not have victory in the end.
So, who is this beast? Daniel helps us. Daniel 7 presents a similar image to picture the Roman Empire. Satan used the Romans to oppose God’s people.
Some try to nail it down to a specific ruler. I don’t think the intent is to get that detailed. In fact, I would suggest the scope of the image can find fulfillment in every age—whatever political or social power which the devil can use to stand against the cause of Christ may be capsulized in the image of the beast from the sea. When ungodly ideologies are given life by political or social support, they become a powerful opponent to faith.
A second beast appears which looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon (v 11). His appearance is deceptive, we need to pay attention to what he says! He is given great signs to deceive people (v 13-14a) and leads people to worship the first beast (v 14b-15). Of course for John’s initial audience, this would be fulfilled in the false deities and emperor worship of Rome. As with the first beast, the fulfillment can be seen in every age through various forms of false worship which have been given life and power, whether they be pagan forms or the various isms that have drawn people away from Christ to error. The second beast is a rallying force to garner attention to the first beast and thus the dragon. In him we see the power of a lie dressed up as truth. There are several examples of it throughout the ages—the emperor worship of Rome, nationalism as used by Hitler, the heavy hand of Muhammad in Islam, even the evolutionary theory today, which has paved the way for many to become adherents to the false religion of atheism.
The beast implements a mark on the worshipers—the mark of the beast (v 16). This image has been widely interpreted in our modern day. Books by men like Hal Lindsey, Tim LeHaye, and others have stoked the fears and imagination of many. Through the years, several things have been mistakenly identified as the mark of the beast: barcodes, computers, bank machines and debit cards, government issued ID, RFID chips, cryptocurrency, etc.. The idea that the Covid-19 vaccine is the mark of the beast is simply the next in a line of false claims about the mark of the beast. The mark of the beast is Satan’s equivalent to the seal of the Spirit. It is not something physical and literal, it is about association with the beast, it is about allegiance to the beast, it is about being the possession of the beast.
A quick word about the number of the beast (v 18). We’re told it is “the number of a man.” This has caused people to do numeric contortionism, trying to figure out who the beast is. Nero? Bill Clinton? Bill Gates? Etc. It is a rather simple concept. Seven is the number of God. The beast is not God; the beast is less than God. The number doesn’t deal with a specific man, but with humanity. The Caesars, the Hitlers, the Muhammads of the world will not continue, they will not have victory in the end. They are mortal (6), not divine (7).
Revelation 13 demonstrates how the devil likes to mimic and mock what God does. There are at least 5 different instances of mockery in the text.
· Three persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit || dragon, sea beast, earth beast
· Death—Jesus was dead & rose again || first beast had mortal wound & healed
· Worship—Jesus directs people to God || first beast directs people to Satan
· Miracles—Holy Spirit worked wonders || second beast worked wonders
· Marked—God’s people sealed with the Spirit || devil’s people marked by beast
Such is the nature of false religion. It is always a mockery and mimicry of the truth.