This is the last part in this series, about finding common ground within the Protestant churches. In the previous entries (Part 1, Part 2) we talked about the pillars of Protestantism, the nature of God, and the events about to unfold in the final days of this planet. In this entry, we will continue the story and expand upon some topics that are relevant to eschatology.
The first topic I’d like to broach is the concept of the mark of the beast. This is something every Christian knows a bit about, and it’s quite common in pop culture as well. I would say that this is one of the Biblical concepts that most Christians should agree about. It is quite a controversial topic, and everybody seems to have an opinion on what this number (666), and the mark, mean.
In order to explore this topic, I’d like to step back and examine the events that started this roller coaster we call life. In the beginning, God created the Earth, all that is in it, and humans. He made us in His image. We are the only creatures, that we know of, that were created in God’s image. The angelic beings were not created in God’s image. Why is this important?
In the beginning of this Earth, there was also a great conflict between God and His chief angel, Lucifer. About this time, Lucifer conducted a rebellion against God’s kingship, in order to usurp it and claim it for his own. The reason this conflict occurred is because Lucifer did not want to be obedient to God. He thought that he could do a better job of managing the universe, got a bunch of angels on his side (about a third), and declared God a tyrant, despot, dictator. God won that battle and cast Lucifer and his angels down to this Earth.
You will notice a small link between this concept and Part 2, where I talked that my God is not a tyrant, a despot, or dictator. In fact, Lucifer is still trying to convince others to this day that God does not merit to be our ruler because of this perceived tyranny. The overall feeling in the secular world of today is that God is either disinterested, or He takes pleasure in seeing us suffer. This was the seed of the rebellion in heaven at the beginning of Earth’s history. Lucifer misunderstood (either willingly or in error) God’s intentions, and he continues to tell us about it, yet he is absolutely, 100% wrong.
Having said that, I’d like to point out that since the beginning, this conflict was about obedience, and we’re still debating obedience to God today in our churches. I believe that the end of the conflict will be about obedience also. We will have to make a major decision at some yet undetermined point in time. Every single person on Earth will have to decide whether we stand with God and obey Him alone, or whether we stand with Lucifer and obey him and his minions.
What does this have to do with the mark of the beast? Well, I’d like to propose that the mark of the beast will not be an actual, physical mark. Rather, I believe that the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark, placed in our foreheads or on our right hand. In order to understand this concept, let’s take a look at Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 6-8:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”
What we see here is a command from God to put His laws in our hearts, in our hands, and in our forehead. God isn’t interested in half-measures; He wants all our worship. He wants us to believe His laws and to act accordingly. In contrast to that, we look at the description of the mark of the beast in Revelation chapter 13, verses 16-18:
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
As you can see, the mark of the beast will be placed in the right hand, or in the forehead, not necessarily in both places, and the heart isn’t even mentioned. Lucifer doesn’t care whether we believe that what we’re doing is the right thing. He wants us to either do it, or believe it, both if possible, but he doesn’t care if it’s just belief or if it’s just acts. Here is a beautiful passage from the book of James, chapter 2, verse 17: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
I think James sums it up beautifully in that verse. When we serve God, we have to bring everything to Him. Belief in God won’t save us, neither will doing good deeds. Without God as the center of our intentions, good works are meaningless and belief is pointless:
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
We see these concepts throughout the New Testament, but I like the way James expresses himself.
So, if the final conflict is about obedience, how can we frame the prophecies of the Bible to fit that narrative? In this context, is it important that ISIS is terrorizing the Middle East and North Africa? Is it relevant that Israel is looking to build a third temple in Jerusalem? Is it meaningful that we keep getting close to having RFID chips implanted in our bodies for the purpose of easy commerce?
In short, yes and no. Those things are important, sure, because they signal the end of this age. They are the birth pangs of this Earth, but we as Christians should not be focusing on these events for their own merit as fulfillment of specific prophecies. They do fulfill general prophecies, just not specific ones. Ultimately what will matter is our obedience to God. Obedience is something that is attained through practice. This practice is also called “living by faith”. To live by faith, or in obedience to God, is a continuous learning process. There are those who have died to self and live by faith daily, yet they are not perfect. Nobody in this world has a claim on perfection. We are all sinners, wretched on our own, but made pure and white by the blood of Jesus.
We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We can only live by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. This is not something that we can do ourselves, of our own power. We have to ask God to step into our lives, take the yoke of sin from us, and lend us His Spirit to guide and admonish us through life’s lessons. The Spirit is the One who identifies sinful behavior to us. He is the One who urges us to do certain things, or to stop doing certain things. Some people liken this experience to having a very strong feeling that they should do a certain thing, see a certain person, go to a certain place. It is real and works in the life of every Christian who has invited the Holy Spirit into their lives.
Therefore, this isn’t something that we should leave to the last minute. The learning process must not be a cramming process, as we sometimes do before important exams and tests. The learning must not just be superficial, for it is not important that we know how to live in obedience; it is far more important that we do it, daily, flawed as it may appear to us and the world. The trying is the important part, because constant trying leads to having our lessons learned, even as we may err.
We may discern that the end is nigh from the signs in the world around us, but we should not leave the decision to stand for God to the last possible minute. The muscles must be exercised prior to this event so that we may have lasting power and the understanding only experience can bring, when we make that decision. We have to lay our life down before God as it is, and ask Him to enter into it, to mold us into His chosen people, so that we may be a light unto the world.
I personally have a few sins that keep repeating themselves in my life. I’ve decided to let them go through the power of Christ before I get baptized in October. This is a decision I’ve made with a very happy heart, and I can already see God working in my life. To the people reading this article, I challenge you to make a decision now to give yourselves, your whole selves, to God. Let Him in your life, ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Listen to the Holy Spirit when He is talking to you. Let Him pull you in the direction you’re meant to follow.
In conclusion, keep in mind that the final conflict is about obedience. The mark of the beast is not an RFID chip in your forehead. The mark of the beast is a sign of allegiance to Lucifer and his cause. Let your hearts, minds, and hands be filled with the law of righteousness, and cast out the law of sin from your whole selves. May God guide you on this path, and may we meet in heaven at the end.