Mark of the Beast or Seal of God?

In Revelation, “all” means “ALL.” All men and women that refuse to follow the “Lamb” will render homage to the “beast” and take its “mark.” 

Shine - Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash
Discussions on the “
mark of the Beast” focus on the significance of its number - ‘666’ – and understandably so. We wish to understand it, and thus avoid taking it. But to better appreciate the ramifications of taking the “mark,” it is imperative to see how the book of Revelation contrasts the “mark of the beast” with the “seal of God” - (Revelation 7:1-313:16-18). - [Shine - Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash].

The “mark” is the satanic counterpart to God’s “seal.” Those who take it give their allegiance to the “beast.” In contrast, men and women who receive the “seal” follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.” In this way, the book divides humanity into two groups – and only two - those whose “names are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” and those whose names are not; and therefore, the latter are destined for the “second death” in the “lake of fire.”

The book was written to churches in the first-century Roman Empire at a time when some Christians were being pressured by political authorities and even neighbors to conform to local religious practices, especially to the imperial cult with its divine honors to the emperor, the offering of incense along with other tokens of one’s allegiance to Caesar.

In the ancient world, there was no concept of the separation of religion and state; political ideology, religious and cultural practices were all intermingled. One’s religion was determined by one’s place of origin. The Roman government left local populations alone to practice their indigenous religions, though Rome expected all its subjects to pay homage to Caesar.

At least five of the seven cities named in Revelation featured temples dedicated to the emperor or Roma, the patron goddess of Rome itself. Citizens were free to worship traditional gods; however, on public occasions, they were expected to offer incense to the image of the emperor, and otherwise acknowledge him as chief patron and lord.

To venerate the emperor was both a religious and political act. It demonstrated allegiance to the Empire. Refusal to participate constituted disloyalty, a crime against the state. Christians were taught to be law-abiding citizens, but their faith prevented them from acknowledging anyone as “Lord” except Jesus Christ. Thus, persecution by Rome was inevitable - (Romans 13:1-7).

The conflict is reflected in the Greek verbs used in Revelation for “worship.” The Greek terms employed include the verbs latreuō and, above all, proskuneō. The former denotes the “rendering of divine service” to a divine person or image. In the Greek scriptures, it is applied to priests serving in a Temple. It occurs twice in Revelation for priestly service to God.

In the book, the second verb, proskuneō, occurs twenty-four times. It is a compound of the preposition pros or “towards,” and the verb kuneō or “kiss,” hence the idea “to kiss towards,” to prostrate oneself. Derived meanings include “render homage,” “give obeisance,” “revere,” and “venerate.” It applies to the deference and honor paid to a superior being, human or divine. To “render homage” is to give absolute allegiance, whether to God, Jesus, or to the “beast” - (Revelation 7:1522:3).

In chapter 13, two groups are presented - The “inhabitants of the earth,” and those who “tabernacle in heaven,” Awed by the “beast,” the first group “rendered homage to the beast,” demonstrating that “their names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” The “slander” of the “beast from the sea” is directed against those who “tabernacle in heaven” - (Revelation 13:6-712:12).

Next, the “beast from the earth” appeared, the “False Prophet.” He mimicked the “Lamb” and used religious deception to encourage the “inhabitants of the earth” to erect an image to the first “beast.” In the preceding paragraph, the group had “given homage” to the “beast.” The “False Prophet” now takes them even deeper into their devotion to the “beast” and the “Dragon” - (Revelation 13:14-16).

In verse 10, those who “tabernacle in heaven” are identified as “saints,” the same group targeted for destruction by the “Dragon” - those who “keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.” Their names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” - (Revelation 3:5, 12:17, 13:7, 14:12, 21:27).

The “mark of the beast” is the counterfeit and parody of the “seal of God” received by the “servants of our God,” a group elsewhere identified as the followers of the “Lamb.” This “sealed” company is identical to the “great innumerable multitude from every nation and tribe and people and tongue” redeemed by the blood of the Lamb - (Revelation 5:9-11, 7:9-17).

Man at Surise - Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

The “
seal of God” identifies those who belong to Jesus, and who are preserved through the coming fiery trials. Believers are not removed from the earth to escape tribulation, but instead, are equipped to endure it. Their identification with the “Lamb” spares them from God’s judicial “wrath,” especially the “second Death” - (Revelation 2:11, 7:1-3, 20:6).

Men and women who “render homage to the image of the beast” are “branded” with its “mark on their right hand or forehead.” Without it, no one may participate in the economic life of society.  Anyone who refuses the “mark” is ostracized and faces economic deprivation, possibly even execution. The “mark” is further described as the “name of the beast” and the “number of his name” - (Revelation 13:11-14:5).
In contrast, men and women who belong to the “Lamb” have “his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” They are found before the Throne where they “sing a new song” that no one else can learn.  They have been “purchased from the earth by the Lamb.”

Anyone who “renders homage to the image of the beast” automatically takes its “mark.” In contrast, anyone who “follows the Lamb wherever he goes” receives the name of the “Lamb” and of his Father on the forehead - (Revelation 3:127:1-3, 14:1-5).

If the “seal of God” is a figurative, the same holds true for the “mark of the beast.” This is how Revelation divides humanity into two groups. God “seals” all who give their allegiance to the “Lamb,” whereas, all who render homage to the “beast” take its “mark” and have their names excluded from “the Lamb’s book of life.”

This connection is made clear when an angel warned - “Anyone who renders homage to the beast and his image and receives its mark will drink of the wine of the Wrath of God.” To give allegiance to the “beast” is tantamount to taking its “mark.” ALL who do so will partake of the divine “wrath” - (Revelation 14:9-11).

The coming “wrath” is not a series of plagues, but the full and everlasting “wrath” “prepared unmixed” and poured out at the final judgment. Impenitent men are tormented “with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment ascends unto the ages of the ages.” This is the time when the wicked are cast into the “lake of fire,” the “second death” - (Revelation 20:11-15).

The “saints” who “keep the faithfulness of Jesus” overcome the “beast,” and thus, are found “standing on the glassy sea” before the Throne, where they “sing the song of the Lamb.” In contrast to the “inhabitants of the earth,” they participate in the “first resurrection,” and therefore, they “live and reign with Christ” - (Revelation 15:2-4, 20:4).


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