The popular declaration in Christendom today is, “Do not take the mark of the beast, because if you do, you will go to hell.” A related question is, “Can you lose your salvation by taking the mark of the beast during the tribulation?” There is a great deal of confusion about the mark of the beast, and few sermons adequately address this subject. Rather than just accept the mantra, “Do not take the mark of the beast!,” let’s carefully dig into the scriptures for help.
This issue really involves a number of corollary questions, and if you don’t answer these questions with careful biblical analysis, you can end up making assumptions that have no biblical support. Let’s unpack this whole issue with several smaller questions:
1. What is the mark of the beast?
2. What the mark of the beast is not.
3. Who will take the mark of the beast?
4. What does it mean to worship the beast?
5. What will happen if one refuses to take the mark of the beast?
6. What will happen if one does take the mark of the beast AND worships the beast?
Let’s address each of these as concisely as we can, and at all times let’s keep in mind fundamental but critically important Biblical Principles of Interpretation.
Why are there so many different opinions about biblical doctrine? One cannot randomly read verses in the Bible and attribute meaning based on personal subjective experiences, or by pulling whatever allegorical meaning you want them to have, nor is it wise to simply accept other people’s opinions. Since the early days of the complete canon (approximately 96 AD when John finished the book of Revelation), methods have been developed that provide reliable approaches to accurately interpreting the true meaning of the scriptures. You don’t have to be a graduate of a seminary to learn these solid methods. Exegesis is the act of studying a passage critically and objectively and expressing the author’s intended meaning, while hermeneutics is the study of the principles by which the passage is to be interpreted. Hermeneutics involves grammatical (rules of grammar), historical (facts of history), and literal (plain meaning) rules of interpretation. In their briefest form, a few of the principles of interpretation should always include these:
1. The Bible is the best interpreter of itself.
2. Text must be interpreted in context, both immediate and broad.
3. Read from the text, not into it.
4. Understand when verses are to be taken literally or figuratively.
These are the principles in abbreviated form, but there are books and entire treatises written about how to properly study and interpret the books of the Bible. Not applying a systematic approach to Bible interpretation too often results in interpretations that are nothing more than shooting from the hip or just accepting the latest “opinions,” both of which are extremely dangerous when it comes to God’s Word.”
Why this brief lesson on proper Bible interpretation? Because we are living in a time when American churches have all but abandoned good expository preaching, and heresy has infected churches with false doctrines, and many believers have been and are being misled. Few Christians have learned the basics of studying the Bible and learning how to apply its truths, and American Christians have come to believe all kinds of nonsense.
If you want to be an astronomer, you can’t just guess or make up your own rules. You’ve got to learn the rules of astronomy. If you want to be a brain surgeon, you’ve got to learn human anatomy and neurology. If you want to learn how to read and interpret the Bible, you can’t just guess or make up your own rules. You need to learn exegesis and the principles of hermeneutics. If you really want to learn the meaning and application of God’s Word as he intended, know that it will be hard work–very hard work.
You can see from this single book on one biblical subject, the mark of the beast, that a systematic approach to correctly interpreting the Word of God will take time, lots of reading, research with reliable commentaries, perhaps the use of a concordance and other Bible tools, and of course prayer and meditation. By way of encouragement, you can be sure that applying basic rules of interpretation in your own studies will open up a whole new world of understanding God’s Word, and you will be abundantly blessed. Even better, you will become a blessing to others who need help understanding God’s Word.