Bible prophecy tells us that an end-time system will require people to have a “mark” to conduct business. Do recent events suggest how this might occur?
“The World Is on Fire,” screamed a recent headline. But what to do about it is the big question facing leaders, and the options are fraught with danger.
Bible prophecy, however, tells us that a far more sinister threat looms on the horizon—a savior-type leader, welcomed universally with open arms. What could be wrong with that? Long ago God warned through His prophets that this powerful man will control the world, compelling a blinded humanity to persecute the righteous and ultimately engage in a war against Jesus Christ at His return!
Will you be able to recognize “the man of sin” and how he operates?
Your life may depend on it!
Pandemic and war
First, let’s look at the world’s current fires and how they relate to biblical prophecy.
Even as nations were optimistically beginning to move on from a worldwide pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the status quo and has threatened the delicate balance of international power. A majority of countries in the United Nations condemned Russia’s attack, and Western nations imposed severe economic sanctions. Where is this new crisis taking the world?
Economists quickly warned that the price of energy, food and even fertilizer to grow crops will escalate, since Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of these important ingredients in today’s global economy.
In Western Europe, member nations of the European Union were jolted into action to increase their military spending in order to protect themselves from Russia instead of complacently relying on the United States.
Many analysts fear that a wrong move or even an unintentional provocative act on the world stage could lead to World War III and the use of nuclear weapons. Are we headed toward mutually assured destruction? The Bible says we are!
In His famous Olivet Discourse, Jesus foretold that prior to His return “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). He then added this sobering note: Unless these troublesome “days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (verse 22).
In light of the escalating tensions among nations and the wars and economic challenges that have set today’s world on fire, can anyone afford to ignore what biblical prophecy says lies ahead of us?
One of the most intriguing prophecies about the events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ pertains to two highly influential men, called the “man of sin” and “the beast.” Closely associated with these two figures is an identifying sign that will be imposed on everyone subservient to them, called “the mark of the beast.”
Bible students have long been captivated by trying to determine who the biblical end-time “man of sin”—and what this “mark”—might be. Do recent events in the world provide any possible clues as to how such authoritarian control could be established?
“Man of sin” described
The apostle Paul wrote about the “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day”—the day of Christ’s return—“will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (emphasis added throughout).
Although this is the only place in the Bible where the phrase man of sin is found, this person is also called “the son of perdition [‘destruction,’ Thayer’s Greek Definitions]” in the same verse. In subsequent verses Paul also calls him “the lawless one” (verses 8-9).
Sin is the violation of God’s law, so this “man of sin” is one who flagrantly breaks and dismisses God’s commandments. Yet, astoundingly, he is further described by Paul as one who wields incredible religious power! He “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (verse 4).
How can someone use religion to deceive the whole world—even the Christian world?
It’s easy! The power behind him will be Satan the devil, who will provide this man with miracle-working powers to create, in the eyes of the world, the false illusion that he actually is God (verses 9, 11).
In the book of Revelation we are introduced to two “beasts,” the second one being this same individual. Armed with miraculous powers and a devious ministry, he is called “another beast” and “the false prophet who worked signs . . . by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:11-14; 19:20).
For further study on the various names given to the “man of sin” and how to identify him, see “Will You Recognize the Antichrist?”
“The mark of the beast”
This second beast of Revelation 13 uses his influence and power to deceive people into supporting the first beast of Revelation, which is a civil authority.
Prophecy shows that the first beast is both the end-time resurrection of the Roman Empire, which will be based in Europe, and the leader of it. The second beast is a religious leader and is called the “false prophet.” John writes that the second beast “exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (verse 12).
Satan is a master deceiver, and the way he will inspire this powerful religious leader to cause people to worship the beast will be through a process of false information, miracle-working powers and ever-increasing pressure to comply. This evil impostor will begin by leading people to believe that he represents or actually is God, using miracles to substantiate this false assertion (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9).
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived” (Revelation 13:13-14).
If these powerful feats fail to persuade people to worship the beast and his image, the false prophet will step up the pressure. He will gain the power to “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (verse 15). Furthermore, he will also create a financial stranglehold by requiring people “to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (verses 16-17).
Though in the short term it may seem as if accepting the mark of the beast is a necessity, true followers of Christ will not disobey God. In the end, those who worship the beast and those who receive the mark of the beast or the number of his name will be severely punished by God (Revelation 14:11; 16:2). Those who refuse to worship the beast and his evil system, however, God will reward (Revelation 15:2; 20:4). This will indeed be a test on the whole of humanity!
What is this mark?
People have long speculated on what the “mark of the beast” will be. Popular theories have commonly included a tattoo (such as “666”), bar codes, a social security number, RFID tags, a computer chip implanted under one’s skin or, more recently, cryptocurrency.
Of course, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, others have leaped on the idea that the vaccine is the mark. They point to the measures taken by civil authorities to control the spread of the coronavirus via lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine passports, claiming such were “governmental overreach” and that these forced regulations around the world impacted people’s ability to work certain jobs.
However, there are major and important differences between these events and the mark of the beast spoken of in the Bible. Whether one agreed or disagreed with them, recent government controls did not require people to worship the government or disobey God. (In fact, God tells us to obey the government unless it requires us to disobey Him; see Romans 13:1-2; Acts 5:29.)
Nor were the pandemic restrictions imposed on the world by a superpower and religious authority based in Europe. And, obviously, people were not put to death for disagreeing with governmental policies dealing with the pandemic.
The Greek word charagma in Revelation 14:9 means “a scratch or etching, i.e. stamp (as a badge of servitude)” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries). A mark is thus a brand or sign of identification.
We should also consider that Revelation often uses allegorical symbols to describe prophetic themes.
The term mark has led many to interpret the mark of the beast as something physical that will be worn on one’s right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). But in the Bible, the head represents one’s thoughts and the right hand represents one’s actions. God commanded Israel to place His words and laws “as a sign on your hand, and . . . as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 11:18). In a similar way, the mark of the beast could be symbolic of people thinking and behaving in ways contrary to God’s law.
In the future the beast power will enforce a false belief system that breaks God’s laws.
The Bible describes God’s wrath being poured out on those who embrace the beast’s mark (Revelation 14:9-10). God’s wrath is aroused against sin and deception—not government-mandated tracking devices.
For a more complete study of what the Bible says and doesn’t say about this topic, see our online article “Mark of the Beast.”
How the “mark of the beast” could be enforced
It is fair to say that recent events brought on by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine do perhaps give indications about how the thinking and behavior of large segments of society can be affected, or even controlled.
For example, within days of the war breaking out, the U.S., Canada and the European Union banned the major Russian banks from using SWIFT, the global system that enables international financial transactions. It was a powerful fiscal weapon that immediately and severely impacted the Russian people in everyday life. The full ramifications of what these sanctions on Russia will do to the world’s intricately interconnected economy remain to be seen.
The mark of the beast? No. An illustration, though, of how nations are tied to global financial systems that could have immediate control over nations and the lives of their citizens? Yes! Most people were likely unaware of SWIFT’s existence and its relationship to our daily lives, but now we suddenly realize how potentially vulnerable anyone in the world could be to worldwide economic control systems. What other types of controls could exist in the future?
China already has a social credit system in place, further demonstrating how a society can be controlled. This system ranks citizens’ support for the Communist Party and punishes those considered “untrustworthy” with everything from slow Internet speeds to flight bans to blacklisting. (For more on this, see “Big Data Meets Big Brother in China.”)
Then, of course, nations around the world have seen the reactions for and against governmental regulations instituted to deal with the pandemic. Regardless of what was right or wrong, true or false, what clearly emerged through the COVID situation is that governments can indeed wield enormous power.
Do such examples give hints about how the biblical beast and this powerful religious leader could begin to take control of much of the world’s economy in the future? It’s not inconceivable!
In the future the false prophet will likely use similar but much more powerful means to deceive mankind into accepting and even worshipping the European-based multinational civil government—and its leader. Those who refuse to comply will be killed!
Thankfully, prophecy also reveals that the beast’s and the false prophet’s cruel rule will last for only a short while. Although economic systems allied to it will profit immensely during this time (Revelation 18:3, 11-19), the civil leader and the false prophet will be captured and destroyed by Jesus after His return (Revelation 19:20).
Future pressure to disobey God and accept the “mark of the beast” in order to buy and sell will be immense. The Bible reveals that the man of sin will ruthlessly, without mercy, put dissenters to death. But the reward for faithfully resisting the “mark of the beast” will be well worth the effort—those who resist will ultimately reign victorious and stand with God (Revelation 15:2).
For a deeper overview of these biblical prophecies, see our free booklet How to Understand Prophecy. For further study on how to prepare for the challenging conditions that will exist prior to Christ’s return, see our booklet Change Your Life!