Thursday, November 03, 2005

Revelation 14:1-13

Would you like to know what the mark of the beast is? So would I. There have been quite a few opinions offered on the matter, with the most current being that it is some kind of bar code inscribed on the back of one’s hand or on one’s forehead.

Could be, but the most compelling explanation I've come across is that the mark of the beast is the life that fails to worship God. The last chapter ended with a riddle; that the number of the beast with which a person is marked is 666.

It makes sense to me that the answer to this riddle is that 6 is one number short of 7, and that 7 is the number of God with the threefold repetition highlighting its perfection. If the number of God, then, might be construed as 777, then 666 is the number of man.

To take the number of man upon one’s forehead is to think the thoughts of man, not of God. It is to set one’s mind on earthly things rather than heavenly things. And to take that number upon one’s hands is to do the works of man rather than the works of God; it is to use one’s hands for one’s own purposes rather than using them to accomplish the purpose of God.

That’s what it means to take the mark of the beast, and it was something the people of John’s day struggled with just like its something you and I struggle with. In a sense, it is the struggle of our lives –and not just a reference to some obscure future event that was as irrelevant to John’s readers as such a reference would be to us.

We are told to endure; to keep the commandments of God and to hold fast to the faith of Jesus. It is not easy; to the contrary, such faithfulness is hard work. The world around us sings such sweet songs, luring us in, distracting us with immediate gratification that seems to hold such promise for greater pleasure still… The mark of the beast opens so many wonderful doors to us in this world; it can be such a struggle to resist!

But for those who do resist, one day their labor will be over, and it will not be in vain. As The Message puts it, those who stay faithful to Jesus receive “blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they've done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end."

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