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Opening Question

What is the Mark of the Beast in Revelation?


Our lesson today begins to address the 3rd angel’s message. This is a sobering note, and requires us to recount the context again. In Revelation 13, the land-beast compels people to worship an image (of the sea-beast) just as Daniel’s friends in Dan. 3. Anyone who refuses to worship the beast will receive God’s seal and favor, but face death from human forces. Anyone who does worship the beast will live temporarily and be marked, but must turn their backs on God. It is into this world-wide dilemma that the three angels’ messages are given. And the third is the most dire.

Revelation 14:9-13

Read through the 3rd angel’s message. We find here a conditional sentence: if anyone worships the beast. The conditionality of this warning indicates people will have a choice. Revelation 13 makes it appear that the beast is worth worshipping, but this warning shows otherwise. If people worship the beast and its image (and receives the mark on forehead or hand), they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath. This passage can be broken down into several segments.

First, what is the mark of the beast mentioned in vs. 9? It is a mark that appears on the forehead or hand. But is it a literal mark, or a symbolic “mark” that identifies people? In Daniel 3, people were marked by their actions. You could tell who obeyed the king and who obeyed God by their worship, whether they bowed or not. Worship can mark you, and this is true of Revelation 13. Who or what we worship is critical.

Why do people receive the mark in either their forehead or their hand? Can people worship the beast by action and not their mind/belief system, or vice-versa?

How are Adam and Eve representatives of those who receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads or on their hands?

Second, how do we make sense of vss. 10-11? Here, God is pictured as tormenting those who receive the mark. They drink the wine of His wrath and experience fire and brimstone in His presence. But God is often pictured in the Bible as a God of love. Is it possible that God torments people with his grace? Could the fire and brimstone here be indications of His grace to sinners that they reject?

Read Proverbs 25:2-22 and Paul’s quote of this proverb in Romans 12:18-21 where God’s people are called on to repay evil with good. By so doing, we pour burning coals on peoples’ heads.

Would a loving God torment people forever? Is it possible that the imagery of fiery torment in Revelation is a symbol of God’s grace which goes unwanted by those who worship the beast? How does this metaphor fit with what you know about God throughout the Bible?

Next, we should consider the reference in 14:11 to the smoke of their torment ascending forever. In Rev. 8:2ff, we see that incense and the prayers of the saints are related. When God’s people pray, their prayers are like sweet-smelling smoke which God receives and to which he responds. But for the wicked, their prayers are not heard because they only wish to avoid the penalty and consequences of their crimes; there is no repentance and desire for God to give justice.

Those who worship the beast have no “rest.” How does this idea of rest fit with the concept of the Sabbath as a test in ch. 13?

Finally, 14:12 says that God’s people will need perseverance, but they will be the ones who keep God’s commandments and have faith in or of Jesus.

What is the difference between faith in Jesus or the faith of Jesus? Should we have both?

Closing Comments

The third angel’s message is truly all about God’s grace. We receive rest when we come to Him, and peace through His sacrifice. Those who worship the beast desire man-made religion.

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