The book of Revelation describes a mysterious "mark" that will identify the followers of a false Jesus Christ. Will you take that mark? Have you already? What is it?
What is it? Who will receive it? And how can you avoid it?
It does not have to be a mystery!
What is the prophesied “mark of the beast” mentioned in your Bible? Is it a biochip that will be implanted under people’s skin? Or a paper-thin “data tattoo” mounted on people’s foreheads? For citizens of the United States, is it their Social Security Number? Is it a tracking device, or a thought-control implant? Theories abound as to what this sinister mark will be.
The following verse is what makes many shudder: “He [the beast] 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 or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16–17).
Scripture warns that this beast, whose followers are identified by a mysterious “mark,” will perform great “miracles” to deceive mankind, in conjunction with a powerful military and political system. That powerful system will be identified by the mysterious number “666”
(Revelation 13:18). Anyone who accepts the beast’s mark will be defying God! The Apostle John writes that those with the mark will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Revelation 14:9–10). Surely we should take that warning seriously!
So, what is this mark? And how will it affect you and your family? As we head into the troubled days at the close of this present age, these are vital questions!
A religious system called “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth” is described in Scripture (Revelation 17:5). This system has its roots in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. Described as a fallen woman—an apostate church—it is in direct opposition to God. Scripture describes this system exercising great political influence with world leaders, gaining and giving favors (vv. 1–2).
John further identifies Mystery Babylon as a very rich and wealthy church, “adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication” (Revelation 17:4). Jesus Christ sternly warns His people to leave and shun this church: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).
But why would any church today be called by such an ancient name as “Mystery, Babylon the Great”? It is because that church has teachings straight out of ancient Babylonian mysteries, which were the precursors of many of the world’s pagan practices (The Worship of the Dead, Col. J. Garnier, 1909, p. 8). What was one of the key components of these ancient pagan religions? Sun-worship.
In the days of the ancient Israelites, sun worship was “widely diffused throughout the countries adjacent to Palestine” (“Sun, Worship of,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 1049). God expressly warned the Hebrews against this form of idolatry, knowing that it would be a strong temptation for them: “And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them” (Deuteronomy 4:19). God is an invisible Spirit (John 4:24). He made the sun to provide physical light and heat to the earth and its inhabitants, not to be worshiped! God is to be worshiped, not His creation (Romans 1:25)!
Still, despite plain warnings, the Israelites did fall into apostasy and sun-worship. The prophet Ezekiel saw this chilling sight in a supernatural vision from God: “He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshipping the sun toward the east” (Ezekiel 8:15–16). The 24 courses of God’s priests, plus the high priest, were “bowing toward the rising sun” of the east. Did God consider this a trivial matter? Absolutely not—He said in the next verse that these and other abominations provoked Him to anger! What is the lesson for us, today? Would God be pleased with us if we continued these abominable practices? Of course not!
Through every generation, God’s people have had to battle against compromising with God’s truth. This is true today, just as in Ezekiel’s time. So, do your beliefs really measure up to God’s instructions? The Apostle Paul instructed Christians: “Test all things; hold fast what is good(1 Thessalonians 5:21). If we profess to be followers of Christ, we must obey His commands! We cannot just follow the traditions and imaginations of men. So, ask yourself: where did you get your beliefs?
The roots of many modern religious traditions can be traced to ancient Babylon. The old Babylonian sun-god was named Shamash. In Roman times he was known by his Persian name, Mithra. The cult of Mithra grew in prominence in the Roman Empire around the time of Christ. Author Samuel Dill observed, “Of all the oriental religions which attracted the devotion of the West in the last three centuries of the Empire, that of Mithra was the most powerful” (Roman Society,p. 585). Scholars have noted how closely the story of the god Mithra seems to resemble the story of Jesus. Consider a few examples: Mithra was to be a “king and a shepherd” like Christ. He was to give life and healing to the sick and even raise the dead. He would loose the bonds of the captives, and put an end to wickedness and destroy His enemies (Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 71–72).
Mithraism had many apparent similarities with Christianity. And yet, at its base, it was sun worship—which God calls an abomination! How could this be? The answer is that there is a great deceiver, Satan the Devil, who “works in the sons of disobedience” and “deceives the whole world” (Ephesians 2:2; Revelation 12:9). His masterstroke has been to create a counterfeit Christianity that would have many apparent similarities with God’s true religion, yet would be marked by paganism (for more information on this topic, request a copy of our free booklet, Satan’s Counterfeit Christianity).
Preposterous? Ask yourself: what is the best way for a con artist to deceive unsuspecting victims—by making his product look drastically different from the real article, or by creating something that in many ways looks almost like the real thing? That is exactly what Satan the Devil has done by attempting to blur the line between pagan worship and true Christianity.
Mithra was a “god of light” and was worshiped by showing reverence to the source of light—the sun. Jesus Christ called Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12). He said, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (ibid.). Jesus Christ was “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). Yet Jesus did not teach His disciples to worship Him by honoring the sun!
Some try to justify a blending of sun worship and the true religion, saying Christ was prophesied to be the “Sun of Righteousness” arising “with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2). But true worshipers of God recognize that the “light” of Christ is spiritual truth. The “darkness” of which Christ spoke is spiritual error and deception.
So, is your religion “marked” by obedience to God’s instructions to worship the Creator, not the creation? Or is it still holding on to the ancient traditions that God called “abominable” millennia ago?
Many professing Christians simply assume that their tradition of worshiping on Sunday comes from the Bible. Yet the Bible clearly commands the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, not the first day of the week! Daniel foretold that a heretical religious power would “persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law” (Daniel 7:25). Shockingly, that is exactly what happened during the early years of the New Testament Church, when leaders transferred their Sabbath observance to Sunday.
Scholars—even the most respected Sunday-keeping ones—admit that the New Testament does not endorse a Sunday “Sabbath”—“We fail to find the slightest trace of a law or apostolic edict instituting the observance of the ‘day of the Lord;’ nor is there in the Scriptures an intimation of a substitution of this for the Jewish Sabbath” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Sunday,” p. 1050). No scriptural or apostolic authority commanded the New Testament Church to change its day of worship to Sunday!
But if Scripture does not command Sunday worship, why is it the practice of hundreds of millions of professing Christians today? Could it be that the worship of the “venerable day of the sun” was slipped into the traditions of unsuspecting people by a great deceiver?
Authors George Barna and Frank Viola, in the book Pagan Christianity, point out perceptively that popular Christianity is filled with many unbiblical elements. They note that Sunday-keeping came about as a result of a compromise between Mithraism and Christianity sought by the pagan emperor, Constantine. The authors report that “it was Constantine, in 321ad that decreed Sunday would be a day of rest—a legal holiday. It appears that Constantine’s intention in doing this was to honor the god Mithras, the Unconquered Sun… Further demonstrating Constantine’s affinity with sun worship, excavations of St. Peter’s in Rome uncovered a mosaic of Christ as the Unconquered Sun” (pp. 18–19). So, if you keep Sunday, on whose authority do you observe it? A politically savvy Roman emperor?
H.G. Wells, in his Outline of History, noted that “from the [Mithraic cult] it would seem the Christians adopted Sun-day as their chief day of worship instead of the Jewish Sabbath” (p. 543). Unger’s Bible Dictionary reports: “Sunday is the first day of the week, adopted by the first Christians from the Roman calendar (Lat. Dies Solis, Day of the Sun), because it was dedicated to the worship of the sun” (“Sunday,” p. 1050).
Some assume that John was describing the “Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10 as Sunday. In fact, however, this is a reference to the visions he saw of the coming Day of the Lord—the prophetic year before Christ’s return. Remember, the Sabbath-keeping Jesus Christ said plainly that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28), which meant the seventh day, not the first!
It is not just Sunday worship that mainstream Christianity borrowed from Mithraism. Other traditions were absorbed as well. Have you ever wondered where the date for Christmas, December 25, came from? Is there any proof that it was the birth date of Christ? Absolutely not! Jesus Christ was not born in December, because shepherds were not keeping their flocks in the field in the dead of winter (Clarke’s Commentary, Volume V, p. 370). But December 25 was a very important day to pagans, as the birthday of Mithra: “The 25th of December… was held at the Natalis invicti solis, ‘The birth-day of the unconquered Sun’” (The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, p. 98).
Think! If you and your family observe Christmas, what god are you worshipping? Certainly not Jesus Christ! How can God have anything to do with a festival held in honor of the birth of a pagan sun-god?
Easter sunrise service is also one of the hallmarks of the mainstream Christian calendar. Certainly many sincere professing Christians seek to honor Jesus Christ by observing it. But did Christ really rise at sunrise? The Scriptural record shows that the women came to His tomb Sunday morning when it was still dark, yet He had already risen (John 20:1)!
So, where did the custom of praying toward the east come from? Consider what the historian F.A. Regan has to say: “A suitable, single example of the pagan influence [of professing Christianity] may be had from an investigation of the Christian custom of turning toward the East, the land of the rising sun, while offering their prayers…” (From Sabbath to Sunday, Dr. Samuele Bachiocchi, p. 256). Clearly, the marks of ancient sun-worship can be found all over the traditions that developed in mainstream Christianity!
Scripture shows the Apostle Paul having the disciples gather together to bring an offering on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). But there is no sign of this gathering as a day of worship. Search the Scripture and you will not find a weekly Sabbath observance on a Sunday. Others justify their Sunday-keeping by pointing to the account of Paul talking with the disciples “on the first day of the week” in Acts 20:7–12. But a careful reading will reveal that this was not a worship service—it was a meeting with the disciples before he departed on a trip.
The book of Acts gives us one of the clearest scriptural references to Christians keeping the seventh-day Sabbath in apostolic times. Paul preached to the Jewish believers on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath (Acts 13:14). But many rejected him, so he turned to the Gentiles, who begged him to teach them as well “the following Sabbath”—which he did (vv. 42–44)! This is a clear indication that even among the Gentiles the Apostle Paul did not neglect the Sabbath; in fact, he worshiped and taught on the seventh-day Sabbath, supporting its observance!
Some say that it does not matter how you worship God, as long as you do. But is that what God says? Clearly, He commanded His people to not adopt the methods of worship of the people around them (“do not learn the way of the Gentiles,” Jeremiah 10:2) but instead to be true and committed to God’s instructions!
Mainstream Christianity has the marks of ancient sun worship. In contrast, God also gives marks by which He identifies His true followers. He says one of the “marks” of His people will be the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath. Speaking of the Israelites, God said through Ezekiel: “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:12). In the coming days of vengeance and wrath, what could be more important than being “sanctified” (set apart) by God for special protection? That promise is available for God’s people today!
The mark of the beast of Revelation 13 is really no mystery at all. It has to do with the hand and the forehead—practice and belief (Revelation 13:16).
By contrast, one mark of true Christianity is the seventh-day Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment, which involves worshiping God while resting from work (Exodus 20:8–11; Leviticus 23:3). Certainly, “Sunday” laws forbidding keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath will be a severe test for true, Sabbath-keeping Christians in the coming days ahead. Will they take the “mark” of disobedience and sun-worship and incur God’s wrath? Or, will they resist man’s traditions and remain true to the God of the Bible—obeying their Savior Jesus Christ in all ways, including the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath—to please God and gain eternal life?
What about you? Will you have the commitment to obey God and His commands? Will you have the courage to stand up for the truth, no matter what your friends or neighbors think? Will you be a true follower of Christ, willing to give up everything, if necessary (Luke 18:22)? Sometimes that “everything” means giving up preconceived ideas of who God is and how to worship Him.
Search the Scriptures. Find out for yourself. Reject the “mark” of disobedience to God. Accept His “mark” of obedience, including observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, and make the decision to obey Him no matter what. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8)! If you courageously and obediently serve God with all your heart, you can be assured that when Christ returns soon, you will have the right mark!