I have been studying the thirteenth chapter of the book of Revelation for decades now and almost every book I read and lectures I heard where Revelation 13 is dealt with, there is always the assertion that a mark will be forced on us against our will. Very often this is represented as the implementation of a new world policy to which every inhabitant of planet earth will be held hostage. But is this teaching of Revelation 13? Do the scriptures give us any reason to believe that the world will be held virtually at gun point and forced to do the bidding of a few?
The teaching that the mark of the beast will be enforced in the last days is very mainstream in Christendom. I used to believe it, and almost every prophecy student would consider this the most reasonable conclusion concerning this end-time prediction. However, it is after I started to take a more dispassionate approach to prophecy study that I began to have second thoughts, and I eventually find myself at variance with the orthodox position.
The main observation that led me to begin to question the logics of the view that Revelation 13 is predicting the enforcement of a mark is cited in the first four verses of that chapter. Here is what the Bible declares:
"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" Rev. 13:1-4
The opening verses of Revelation 13 give an account of how the whole thing started. What I find interesting is the spontaneity with which the world gives homage to the beast. How did this happen? Here are the stages:
1. The beast received a deadly wound
2. He miraculously recovered from the wound
3. The world went into total astonishment
4. They voluntarily worship the beast and the dragon
Now here is the reasoning that led me to my conclusion. Since the world is represented here as rendering unforced allegiance to the beast; since the worship of the beast was a natural response from the world to what they consider a supernatural event, it cannot be suggested that this was something imposed on them against their will.
From what we are told in subsequent verses it seems as if this new wave of "spiritual awakening" will become so widespread that the vast majority of the world's population will be settled in their decision to make the beast their sole object of worship. This point is made clear in the following verse:
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Rev. 13:8 (KJV)
In the eleventh verse of Revelation 13, we see the introduction of a new beast with lamb-like horns. From John's account of this new beast, his portfolio responsibility is to cause the world to worship the seven-headed beast. It is interesting to note the un curso de milagros by which the lamb-horned beast will accomplish this feat. According to the scriptures he is to get the world to worship the first beast as a direct result of deception. In verse 14, it is said that he is to deceive the world by the use of miracles, thus convincing the people to worship the image of the beast.
When I examine verse 14, one important question immediately comes to mind. If the worship of the beast is already being rendered by voluntary effort and encouraged by deception, what sense would it make to then say, "I am forcing you against your will to worship the beast"? You don't have to force somebody to do something if you are already deceiving them into doing it! But what about the text that says:
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." Rev. 13:15
It must be noted that this kind of enforcement comes after the people have already been giving willing allegiance to the beast. It is not an indication of how things got started; it is not what triggered the scenario in verses 1-4. So what's the purpose of this death decree? There are going to be those who will not be deceived by the miracles but will instead see it as a ploy of the Devil to get the world to render him homage.
While the worship of the beast will become the societal norm, the people of God, in their tireless efforts to promote the worship of Jehovah, will not only face fierce opposition from the worshippers of the beast, but will also be up against oppressive legislations specifically designed to deal with their refusal to conform to this new religious order.
In verse 16, John told us that the same lamb-horned beast that deceived the world and cause them to worship the beast also caused them to take his mark. From this observation it seems as if there is some kind of relationship between the worship of the beast and the taking of his mark. It appears that the mark is designed to be a means of identifying those who have made their decisions to become his worshippers.
From my study of Revelation 13, the conclusion seems to be quite clear-cut. The world will be deceived into giving homage to the beast, and as a token of their allegiance to him, they will voluntary offer themselves to take his mark. This state of affairs will not come about by force; it will be an expression of the willing obedience of a deceived people.