Have you heard of the biblical Mark of the Beast? Could it be something that you have already been affected by—or even “accepted” without knowing it for what it is?
Many people have heard of the Mark of the Beast, and speculations abound regarding what it is. Some in the United States once thought the Social Security Number to be that mark, and some thought the mark might be the Canadian Social Insurance Number, with its acronym “S.I.N.” The barcode and the more recent quick response (QR) code have also been tarred with that accusation. All of these are related to buying and selling, or holding a job, but none of them are the Beast’s mark, which is revealed in the book of Revelation.
Then there are speculations about computer chips implanted in the hand or the forehead. For certain, chips are being used to track dogs and cats when they stray—and even for human identification—but computer chips are not that mark. How can we know for sure?
In this article, I’ll discuss what that mysterious mark is, but I’ll also explain a very different mark—the mark or sign of God—for it is through this God-ordained mark that we come to understand the Mark of the Beast.
The entire subject of the Beast’s mark would be unheard of were it not for the book of Revelation; it is therefore the Bible itself that must enlighten us regarding this subject. And the fundamental point in understanding this mark is what it is called: the Mark of the Beast. It is the Beast’s mark! Any mark not arising from the Beast—whatever or whoever the Beast is—cannot be his mark. Therefore, unless the U.S., Canada, or any other country is the Beast, their Social Security or Social Insurance numbers cannot be that mark. Nor can chip implants in one’s hand or forehead be that mark, unless originating from and enforced by the Beast.
So, who or what is this beast and his mark?
The search begins in the Old Testament, in the second chapter of the book of Daniel. There we read that God revealed to the prophet Daniel the meaning of ancient Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s famous dream. In this dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw the image of a man with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. Of special note is that the image’s feet and toes were a mixture of iron and clay.
Daniel explained to the king that this figure of a man represented four kingdoms. The head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar’s Chaldean Empire. History shows that the three empires that followed were the Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian, and Roman Empires. All of these would arise out of the Middle East and the Mediterranean world.
So, what does this have to do with you, me, or the Mark of the Beast? Everything—but why?
Daniel’s prophecy covers the time from Nebuchadnezzar all the way through history until the return of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the establishment of His kingdom here on planet Earth:
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this (Daniel 2:44–45).
The Stone cut out of the mountain without hands—in other words, supernaturally—is clearly a reference to the return of the Messiah as He sets up a future, everlasting kingdom. So, we see that Christ returns and destroys mankind’s empires by smiting this great image on the feet and toes (v. 34).
Historians tells us that the Roman Empire died in 476 AD, but Christ did not return and set up a world-ruling kingdom at that time. So, we must wonder, did this prophecy fail? Or is there more to it? The key is found in a closer look at the iron legs of this fourth kingdom, with its strange feet and toes composed of iron and clay.
Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay (Daniel 2:41–43).
Clearly, the feet and toes make up the part of the image that will exist at Christ’s return. But how can this be when Rome fell more than 1,500 years ago?
The seventh chapter of Daniel elaborates further on these four worldly empires by describing them as four wild beasts. The first is described as being like a lion with eagle’s wings, the second like a bear, the third like a four-headed leopard, the fourth “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (Daniel 7:7).
These four kings, or kingdoms (7:17, 23), arise out of the Mediterranean (vv. 2–3) with the fourth, like the statue in Daniel 2, ending when Christ returns to set up an eternal kingdom. “But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his [the fourth beast’s] dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (vv. 26–27).
A careful reading shows that it is useless to speculate about these symbols on our own, as God explains the symbols He uses in Scripture. The image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is explained as four kingdoms, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s. We are told that the four beasts of Daniel 7 represent four kings or kingdoms, and that the fourth ends with God’s kingdom—so these beasts clearly represent the same four kingdoms as those mentioned in Daniel 2.
God reveals more detail about these kingdoms as time progresses. We now come to another beast, this one found in Revelation 13. We find the same characteristics seen in Daniel 7, but all combined into a single creature. This is because John recorded the visions given to him in the late 90s AD—at the time of the Roman Empire. The first three kingdoms had each fallen and ultimately been absorbed by Rome.
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority (Revelation 13:1–2).
But, as we read these passages today, Rome fell more than 1,500 years ago. So, how can it be in existence when Christ returns? Note that this beast has seven heads. Compare this with Daniel 7 and you will see the same number of heads when counting all four creatures. Revelation 13:3 and 5 explain that one of the heads had a deadly wound that was healed. Since the first three beasts were absorbed by Rome—making this beast a composite of the four—the only head that could be healed is that of Rome, which is exactly what we find in history.
The Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, but in 554 AD, it was restored—“healed”—by Justinian, in league with the Roman Catholic church. To understand what happened next, we must turn to Revelation 17, where the “healed” Roman Empire continues. There we find another seven-headed beast, but only after the healing of its wounded head. But there is one significant difference between this seven-headed beast and the one we read of in Revelation 13: This beast is ridden by a woman.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:1–3).
In the Bible, a woman is sometimes used as a symbol of a church (Ephesians 5:31–32; Revelation 19:6–9). Here, we see a fallen woman, an apostate church—a mother church with harlot daughters (17:1, 5). This restored Roman Empire with seven heads is ridden by an apostate religious system. Furthermore, we learn that after its healing it would continue for “forty-two months” (13:5). Note that Scripture commonly uses the “day for a year” principle (Isaiah 34:8; Ezekiel 4:6). Considering a biblical prophetic month of 30 days, 42 months of those days gives us 1,260 days or years, depending on the context of the passage.
History reveals that the Roman Empire, now ridden by an apostate church, was restored by Justinian in 554 AD. This empire went into decline and was revived four more times. The second restoration came in 800 AD, when on “Christmas Day, as Charlemagne [King of the Franks], in the chlamys and sandals of a patricius Romanus, knelt before St. Peter’s altar in prayer, [Pope] Leo suddenly produced a jeweled crown, and set it upon the King’s head” (Will Durant, The Age of Faith, 1950, p. 469).
After Charlemagne, the Empire again deteriorated, but was revived a third time under Otto I, the Great. “Like Charlemagne, Otto received his throne through the Papal claim that the Roman Church had been the only Imperial elector since the early fourth century…. The Holy Roman Empire was thus to a large extent German in its ethnic and political base, Christian in its moral justification, and Roman in its claim to legitimacy and universality” (The Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, ed. Herzstein, 1966, p. viii).
Charles the Great and Napoleon constituted the fourth and fifth restorations. From the healing under Justinian in 554 to the fall of Napoleon in 1814, we have exactly 1,260 years, as foretold (Revelation 13:3, 5).
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is great interest in and a multitude of interpretations regarding the “Mark of the Beast” and “the number of his name,” which is 666. Also, as brought out, the most fundamental criterion for this mark is that it is “of the Beast”—thus the lengthy explanation to clarify who or what the Beast is, because if a mark is not of the Beast, it is not the Mark of the Beast! It is that simple—yet people get excited with every new invention that affects buying and selling. Probably the most recent candidate was the COVID-19 vaccine. Whatever anyone may think about the wisdom and safety of the vaccine, it is not the Mark of the Beast.
So, what do we know about this mysterious mark? To answer that question, we must look to the book of Revelation, for that is where it is introduced. First, however, we must notice that this woman who rides the Beast is mentioned as a separate beast in Revelation 13. After introducing what we have shown as the Roman Empire in the opening verses of the chapter, we read:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon…. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived (vv. 11–14).
Yes, this beast appears Christ-like, like a lamb, but it speaks as the devil, a dragon (Revelation 12:9). This should not surprise us, as the Apostle Paul warns that Satan has ministers who masquerade as ministers of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13–14). This second beast—the same as the harlot of chapter 17—is clearly a religious system that performs false miracles in conjunction with the Roman system.
Now, we come to the crucial verses regarding the beast’s mark: “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, 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).
Whatever else the Beast’s mark is, it is a sign of disobedience. It cannot simply be a computer chip or barcode. It is, first and foremost, the Beast’s mark. We also read that God’s wrath comes upon the disobedient (Romans 1:18; Colossians 3:5–6), and it is upon those who take the mark that His wrath falls (Revelation 16:2).
The devil is a great counterfeiter (2 Corinthians 11:3–4, 13–15). He has counterfeited the sign that God gave His people, so that Satan’s people are stamped with Satan’s mark. But what, then, is the sign God uses to identify His people?
God made a covenant with Israel whereby He declared the seventh-day Sabbath to be a sign between Him and His people (Exodus 31:12–17). Some wrongly reason that Jesus changed the Sabbath to the first day of the week, but the Bible and early Church history show that Jesus, the Apostles, and the first-century Church of God continued to observe the day that God set aside thousands of years before Moses was born. It was Roman Emperor Constantine, in 321 AD, who declared “the venerable day of the sun” to be holy time (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Vol. II: From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great A.D. 311–600, 1867, p. 380).
Furthermore, God declared to ancient Israel that the Feast of Unleavened Bread—one of seven annual Festivals He gave to mankind, which Jesus and the early Church observed (1 Corinthians 5:7–8)—was to “be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth” (Exodus 13:9, 16).
Just as the Mark of the Beast is to be on one’s forehead and on one’s hand, so too are God’s Holy Days to be on the forehead and on the hand. The forehead symbolizes how we think, and the hand symbolizes our actions; neither symbolic sign should be understood to be stamped literally on the hand or forehead.
Daniel 7 also speaks of this apostate religious system (vv. 19–21). “He [that is, the horn ‘whose appearance was greater than his fellows,’ i.e., the woman who rides the Beast] shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law” (v. 25).
Many confuse the Mark of the Beast with the potential methods of enforcing it. Emperor Constantine enforced the mark on his subjects—and any who refused it paid a heavy price. Mainstream “Christianity” has continued to enforce it—sometimes more forcefully than at other times. Consider the so-called “blue laws,” when businesses have to be closed on Sundays.
What is clear is that this mark—an attempt to change times and law—will again be enforced. The method of enforcement may be an eye scan, facial recognition technology, or some other determiner of identity, but the method of enforcing Satan’s mark of disobedience to God’s laws is not the mark itself.
Daniel 2 and 7, along with Revelation 13 and 17, show a progression of four great empires from Nebuchadnezzar to the return of Christ. We read in Revelation 17, “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits [Rome sits on seven hills]. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen [“revivals” of the old Empire between 554 to 1814 AD], one is [the Axis Powers under Hitler and Mussolini], and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (vv. 9–10). The one to come is yet in our future.
The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful (vv. 12–14).
These kings, leaders, or nations will rise up in today’s Europe. Combined, they will have the military and economic strength of iron. But, as we learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, this short-lived, ten-toed union will not mix well—it will be as iron and clay.
When this final restoration of the Roman Empire arises, it will, once again, along with the great apostate church, enforce Constantine’s 321 AD edict of resting on “the venerable day of the sun.” It may do so in the name of strengthening families, or saving the planet, or social responsibility and public safety—but, whatever the attempt to justify it, make no mistake: Enforcement of the Mark of the Beast is coming!
For a fuller explanation of this subject and to understand the significance of the number 666, order a free copy of The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor, or Soon-Coming Reality? from the Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 4) or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.