The third angel’s message warns of the mark of the beast in language that gives us a basic concept of its nature. Do not “worship the beast and his image,” nor “receive his mark” in your “forehead” or in your “hand,” proclaims the third angel. The warning in chapter 13 is very similar. The beast will “cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed . . . and he causeth all . . . to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Revelation 13:15-16). From these Scriptures it is clear that the mark of the beast has to do with “worship,” which stands to reason since the beast itself is a false system of worship. The mark of the beast, then, will be some type of coerced means by which the beast will receive spiritual allegiance.
Another clue is that the mark of the beast is received in the right hand or in the forehead. Some have assumed that this indicates a literal, visible mark such as a tattoo or a bar code on the flesh of the hand or forehead. Others have suggested that the mark will be some kind of microchip inserted under the skin. Neither view harmonizes with the deeper issue of worship so clearly brought to view in Revelation. Worship is an issue of the heart, calling for the loyalty of the mind and the compliance of the body. To receive the mark of the beast in the forehead implies the agreement and loyalty of the mind. To receive the mark in the right hand suggests unwilling compliance for the sake of self-preservation. Some will worship the beast and support its system because they believe in it with the mind. Others will reluctantly yield the homage of their hand for fear of persecution.
Another clue as to the exact nature of the mark of the beast is “the seal of God.” In Revelation the seal of God is the sign of loyalty to the Creator in opposition to the beast and his mark. If we can ascertain from Scripture what God’s seal is, we will have no problem identifying the mark of the beast, for they are conflicting expressions of faith in two opposing systems of worship. The mark of the beast is the sign of allegiance to the beast. The seal of God is the sign of allegiance to the Creator.
The first mention of the seal of God is in Revelation 7:1-3. In these verses we notice that, unlike the mark of the beast, the seal of God can be received only in the “forehead,” not in the hand alone. The reason for this is simple: God only accepts a worship that is lovingly given from the heart. He will not force us to serve Him. Only those who truly love and honor the Lord will receive His seal.
Later in Revelation the seal of God is called something else: the “Father’s name written in their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). The name of the Father in the forehead is the same as the seal of God in the forehead. The word seal comes from a Greek word that means a signet or sign, that by which anything is confirmed, authenticated, proved genuine (see Strong’s and Thayer’s). The word name comes from a Greek word that means the character or authority by which a person is distinguished from others (see Strong’s and Thayer’s).
The idea is very similar in both cases, but our understanding enlarges as we take both into consideration. The seal of God is some specific sign that distinguishes Him as the one true God; it expresses His character and reveals the source of His authority. Those who bear this seal distinguish themselves as loyal worshipers of the Creator. It seems logical then that the mark of the beast serves to distinguish that system’s character and authority, and those who receive the mark distinguish themselves as followers of the beast.
The seal-of-God concept in Revelation is a symbolism drawn from an ancient custom that many nations still employ today. For thousands of years persons of high authority and honor—such as emperors, kings and presidents—have used a seal to authenticate and give authority to their laws and documents. These seals include three pieces of vital information: (1) the name of the person whose authority is represented by the seal (such as George Washington), (2) his title or distinction (President), and (3) his dominion or territory (USA).
Such seals were common during the time when Revelation was written. The author employed the seal to convey a vital spiritual truth. God has a seal, a sign by which He and His followers are distinguished from every false system of worship. Where in Scripture do we find such a comprehensive revelation of God’s character and authority?
Only in The Ten Commandments. Notice how the fourth commandment reads: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Sabbath contains all three of the elements we need for God’s seal:
1. Name: “The Lord thy God.”
2. Title: Creator—“The Lord made.”
3. Domain: “Heaven and earth.”
The Sabbath is a weekly memorial that reminds us of the one and only Creator-God. It was first established at Creation by the Creator Himself (see Genesis 2:2-3). When we keep holy the Sabbath day, we keep fresh in mind our absolute dependence on the One who made and sustains us. The Sabbath immortalizes the truth of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone, for it teaches us to rest in Christ (see Hebrews 4).
We have already considered passages that seem to point to the Sabbath as the seal of God. Beyond those Scriptures there are Bible verses that specifically tell us that the Sabbath is God’s sign or seal (see Exodus 31:13-14; Ezekiel 20:12, 20).
Even the word Sabbath itself bears testimony that the Sabbath is God’s seal. The Hebrew word for Sabbath is Shabbath. A little word study reveals a rich understanding. There are three divisions to the word with individual meanings. Together they form a powerful message.
1. Bath or Beth means house of or sign of. We find much usage of Beth in
Hebrew. Bethsada means sign of fish. Bethlehem means sign of bread.
2. Ab, from which we get Abba, means Father.
3. Sha means sire, aged or eternal one.
The full meaning of Shabbath is Sign of the eternal Father.
The Sabbath is God’s signature on Creation. It proclaims, There is one God who made everything, and He made you. He is your Father. He is the only one worthy of your spiritual loyalty and worship. When we keep the Sabbath we distinguish ourselves as worshipers of the true God.
What, then, is the mark of the beast?
You will remember that one of the distinguishing characteristics of the beast power system is that it attempts to exalt itself above God by tampering with His holy law (see Daniel 7:25). Think about it: If a religious system can obtain an obedience to its authority that requires disobedience to God’s law, that power has effectively usurped the loyalty that belongs alone to the Creator. It should come as no surprise then that the Catholic Church claims Sunday observance in place of the Sabbath as the mark of her authority: “Sunday is our mark of authority. The Church is above the Bible, and this transference of Sabbath observance is proof of the fact” (The Catholic Record of London, Ontario, Canada, September 1, 1923).
“Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act. And the act is the mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters”
(Faith of Our Fathers, p. 14, C. F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons).
The God of heaven says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, for it is the seal of your loyalty to Me.” The Catholic Church says, “No, keep Sunday as a demonstration of your loyalty to the Church.”
There have been and are many people who have kept Sunday in place of God’s Sabbath in sincere ignorance. God does not hold us accountable for what we don’t know. But mark this point with care: Revelation warns us of a time when the mark of loyalty to the beast will come into direct conflict with the seal of loyalty to the Creator. The mark of the beast will be enforced on penalty of economic boycott and even death. Religious freedom will be severely threatened as a world-wide system of false worship seeks to require the homage of the world. When that crisis comes upon the world, then, and only then, will Sunday
observance in place of Sabbath-keeping become the mark of the beast.
With messages like these, how can we doubt God’s love? It is obvious He does not want us to be deceived. He bears us upon His heart with infinite love. He knows the devil is working overtime to secure our destruction. And He knows we will find our truest happiness in loyalty and love to Him.
So He speaks His final message of mercy. Will we listen?