666 and the Mark of the Beast
If you are a futurist and believe that the beast of Revelation 13 is not connected to the Roman Empire of the first century and remains yet to be revealed at the end of the age (i.e., during the seven-year tribulation period, as dispensationalists teach), then you will not look at the mark of the beast through the lens of the New Testament and the historical situation when John was given his vision. Instead, you will understand this mysterious mark as something still hidden in the future. And given the breakneck pace of the advance being made in all forms of technology, it is only natural that futurists would see John’s reference to the mark of the beast as somehow connected to the technological advantage by which the beast and false prophet will enslave the inhabitants of the world and deceive them into worshiping the Antichrist.
As futurists see it, when John speaks of the mark of the beast, he’s essentially predicting that some future form of technology will be utilized by Antichrist to dominate and control the world’s population. According to Peter and Paul Lalonde, “The Bible says that the mark of the beast and its accompanying technology will be installed by the antichrist–not as an end in itself, but as a means of managing the new world order that is even now being created” (Peter LaLonde and Paul LaLonde, Racing Toward the Mark of the Beast, Harvest House Publishers, 1994, 148).
The futurist approach to Revelation is misguided because it pushes off into the distant future what was already a serious threat to Christians in the first century (emperor worship), by ignoring the historical context for the visions of Revelation 13 and 17. Instead, John’s comments about the mark of the beast should be seen against the backdrop of the imperial cult and the worship of the Roman emperor. The emperor’s blasphemous image was everywhere in John’s world (Asia Minor), from coins to statues identifying various emperors as deities in most major cities ( cf. S. R. F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor, Cambridge University Press, 1984). John’s reference to the mark being placed upon the back of the hand or the forehead makes perfect sense in light of the wide-spread first century practice of branding or tattooing slaves–a mark of shame and subjugation (Caird, The Revelation of St. John, 173).
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