What is and isn’t the Mark of the Beast?
We have written much about the mark of the beast in our Q&As and booklets, and we have given numerous sermons on the issue. As questions have arisen as to whether the mark of the beast applies to the governmental command or “encouragement” to wear masks or to get vaccinated, especially against the coronavirus, we are setting forth below, at first, a synopsis of what we have published about the mark of the beast.
Revelation 13:16–17 explains that people will accept “a mark” of the ancient Roman Empire and its ten European revivals (the “beast” power) “on their right hand” or “on their foreheads.” Without it, they cannot buy or sell (compare Revelation 14:9). This mark is associated with the violation of God’s Sabbath commandment (compare Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20; Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 58:13; Amos 8:5; Exodus 16:23, 26; Exodus 31:15). In the Bible, the “right hand” is associated with work (Psalm 90:17; 137:5). The “forehead” is the seat of thoughts (Ezekiel 3:8; 9:4; Revelation 7:3).
The Roman Catholic Church tried to “change times and law” (Daniel 7:25)—that is, God’s law regarding holy time. It has changed the calendar in Europe in 1976, which identifies Sunday as the last day of the week, rather than the 7th-Day Saturday-Sabbath. It has inspired worldly governments to enact laws commanding Christians to rest on Sunday, while working on Saturday. Many of these “blue laws” are “on the books,” even though they might not be enforced everywhere at this time, but this will change soon, when the final European revival of the ancient Roman Empire has manifested itself on the world scene.
As early as 364 A.D., the Catholic Church decreed that Christians must work on the Sabbath, and that they must rest on Sunday. Canon 29 of the Council of Laodicea stated the following: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day [Sunday]; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”
Will Durant said in The Story of Civilization about the Code of Justinian: “This Code… enacted orthodox Christianity into law… It acknowledged the ecclesiastical leadership of the Roman Church, and ordered all Christian groups to submit to her authority…. Relapsed heretics were to be put to death… and other dissenters were to suffer confiscation of their goods, and were declared incompetent to buy or sell, to inherit or bequeath; they were excluded from public office, forbidden to meet, and disqualified from suing orthodox Christians for debt.”
In other words, those who were not orthodox Catholics were forbidden from buying and selling—i.e. conducting business. This will be reinforced again, with unparalleled severity, all over the world within the next few years.
In addition to the rejection of the weekly Sabbath, the mark of the beast includes also the rejection of God’s annual Holy Days [which are also called Sabbaths in the Bible, compare Leviticus 23, including the Feast of Tabernacles]. Governments in certain Catholic countries, such as Germany, are already prohibiting children to celebrate the Feast, while unlawfully insisting that they must attend school during that time.
At the same time, the Catholic Church caused and is causing governments to enact laws enforcing the celebration of man’s pagan holidays, falsely so-called “Christian,” such as Christmas days, Good Friday, Easter days and New Year’s, just to name a few.
God specifically warned ancient Israel not to incorporate pagan elements in their worship of Him (Deuteronomy 12:30-32). The early Roman Church absorbed pagan elements into their worship to make the new faith attractive to Gentiles who were already steeped in pagan customs. This was also done because of anti-Semitism and the desire to appear different from the Jews.
These pagan customs were placed under a “Christian” mantle so that they would have the appearance of being godly. Traditional Christianity has clearly violated God’s command to not learn pagan ways of worship from the Gentiles, to not add pagan elements to holy worship, and to not delete godly elements that are to be observed, such as the weekly and annual Holy Days. Therefore, it has, in effect, accepted for a long time the mark of the beast by embracing human religious traditions that violate God’s laws of proper worship.
The mark of the beast is tantamount to a religious philosophy detrimental to the true worship of God. It includes the mandatory and legally enforced celebration of pagan religious holidays and the practical and/or legal prohibition of the observance of God’s sacred days. It also includes humanly devised and ungodly ideas supporting and embracing a religion which preaches a false God, a false Jesus or a false gospel (Galatians 1:6–9; 2 Corinthians 11:3–4).
As mentioned, the mark of the beast has been in existence for a long time and even though it will reach its climax in the days ahead, it cannot possibly be a reference to microchips or cryptocurrencies or, as we will show, to vaccinations or a vaccine certificate, as these did not even exist in times past.
Rather than referring to a chip or some other tangible “evidence,” the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states that, “The mark may be… not a visible mark, but symbolical of allegiance.” This “allegiance” can be seen today in many different ways, if we analyze what laws and regulations governments have already enacted or are in the process of enacting.
In our booklet, “Obeying God Rather Than Men,” we said this:
“True Christians understand that the Sabbath and the Holy Days must be kept, and that they must not instead accept the mark of the beast by worshipping on Sunday and pagan holidays, and by refusing to worship on God’s weekly and annual Sabbaths.
“But how does this play out in practice when the government prohibits Christian churches to meet and assemble on the Sabbath? They might not even place this prohibition under a religious mantle, but they might give some other reasons, such as the outbreak of a pandemic that would require people to stay at home. The weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days are commanded biblical holy assemblies or holy convocations (compare Leviticus 23). We should ask ourselves whether refusing to follow God’s command, because the government says so, would be pleasing to God (compare Hebrews 10:25; the Living Bible states: “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near”).
“… God’s ministers are commanded to feed the flock. Zechariah 11:16 warns us of a worthless shepherd who will not feed or heal Church members. Ezekiel 34:4 applies this to other shepherds as well. God’s true ministers have a duty to anoint those with oil who are sick (James 5:14), which includes the laying on of hands (Luke 4:40; Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8). But in times of the existence of a real or perceived virus that is allegedly being transferred through touch or close proximity (‘social distancing’ is supposed to prevent this from happening), a government might prohibit such a practice of anointing…
“Conflict may arise when a government, perhaps due to fear of a virus which might allegedly be transmitted by touch or close proximity, prohibits the practice of baptizing or ordaining a person, which requires the laying on of hands by the minister on the person (compare Acts 8:12–17; 19:5–6; Acts 6:2–6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6). In addition, a government might prohibit Church ministers to bless little children (Mark 10:16; compare Matthew 19:13–15) or to conduct marriages, as all these procedures require the laying on of hands to set the persons aside for a holy and righteous purpose. Already in Old Testament times, it was understood as symbolizing the imparting of godly blessings (Genesis 48:13–20), His authority and spiritual power (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9).
“… A government might also prohibit God’s Church from preaching the gospel of the Kingdom… a government might not prohibit the preaching entirely, but it might seriously limit it to only those statements that are deemed politically correct. It might prohibit preaching God’s Truth about sin, including homosexuality, abortion, voting, jury duty or fighting in war… [God’s Church must] preach the ‘full counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27), no matter how ‘offensive’ it might be to other people and to the government…
“What if a government would issue a decree prohibiting the worship of the true God, or enjoining the worship of the ‘god’ of their choosing?… [In the past, people were forced to accept the Trinity and were declared “anathema from Christ” if they rejected this false concept. Also, Catholics must pray to the “Virgin Mary”—another false teaching.]
“In the future, God’s Church is described as fleeing to a place of safety here on earth from governmental authorities. Even though we do not know exactly how this flight will transpire, the point is that it is God who will set in motion such a ‘flight’ to protect His people from governments under Satan’s control, and He will even intervene when the governmental armies are trying to capture and kill God’s people. If someone, falsely understanding the relationship between God’s and men’s prerogatives, would feel that he cannot flee as this would violate the government’s orders, he would most certainly not be taken to the place of safety, but he would be left behind and suffer the terrible consequences of his misguided and faulty perception.”
What should have become clear from the foregoing is that the mark of the beast PREVENTS the true worship of God, including the observance of and proper assembly and worship on His weekly and annual Holy Days, accompanied by prayer and singing out loud without a mask to praise God, and other commanded activities, such as baptism, anointing of the sick, blessing of little children, conducting marriages, etc.
Anything which does not prevent true Christians from worshipping God in the right way, or which even assists them in doing so, could not possibly be described as (part of) the mark of the beast.
This means, then, that a Christian who does not buy or sell goods on Sunday or who is not working on that day, is not, per se, accepting the mark of the beast, as long as he does not keep Sunday holy as the day of worship towards God. The Bible does not command us to buy or sell goods on Sunday or to work (doing our business) on that day. On the other hand, a Christian who refuses to keep God’s Sabbath holy and conducts instead his business on that day does thereby accept the mark of the beast, as he violates God’s command to refrain from his ordinary customary work and to worship God on that day.
The same is true, of course, for God’s annual Holy Days and man’s pagan holidays. To not work or do business on Christmas or Easter is not, per se, accepting the mark of the beast, as long as the Christian does not participate in man’s pagan worship services on these days. On the other hand, to work or do business on God’s annual Holy Days, while neglecting to assemble on these days to worship God, would in fact constitute the acceptance of the mark of the beast.
Applying these principles to the issues of wearing masks or of vaccinations, the answer becomes clear: As long as none of these activities prevent us from worshipping or following God in the way which is pleasing to Him, they do not constitute the acceptance of the mark of the beast. This is even more obvious if those governmental measures constitute the government’s approval, enabling us to worship God in the proper way.
Wearing or not wearing a mask, or getting or not getting vaccinated is not, per se, tantamount to accepting the mark of the beast, as long as they do not prevent us from worshipping God in the right way (However, wearing a mask in church services might very well prevent us from worshipping God in a proper way). Otherwise, these are personal decisions, based on one’s individual situation. If a minister ought to travel overseas to visit the church or baptize or preach the gospel, but could only do so if he is vaccinated first, then vaccination does not prevent him from worshipping God and fulfilling his job as a minister; in fact, it might enable him to do so. If air travel in such a case would require the wearing of a mask, and if there was no other way to travel, then doing so would not constitute accepting the mark of the beast. This does not mean however that he must travel under those circumstances, because additional considerations, personal and otherwise, might have to be taken into account.
These principles, discussed above, do not just apply to ministers. If one has to wear a mask or has to be vaccinated to be able to keep his or her job or to go shopping, then a decision to do so would not constitute the acceptance of the mark of the beast, as it has nothing to do with worshipping or not worshipping God in the right way.
In this Q&A, we are primarily addressing the concept of the mark of the beast, and what it does and does not constitute. We are not speaking, in general, about the advisability or inadvisability of wearing a mask or becoming vaccinated. In particular, we are not addressing here whether or not vaccinations are safe; whether or not they will cause short-term or long-term (genetic) side effects; whether or not it is advisable to become vaccinated because of one’s health or age; or whether or not vaccinations are morally and ethically questionable because they were originally developed from cells of aborted fetuses. (We would like to add in this context, however, that today’s vaccinations are not manufactured from cells of aborted fetuses.)
A decision to get vaccinated or not is an individual decision, but it must be based on one’s individual conscience and conviction, because whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). We must be persuaded or fully convinced in our own mind (Romans 14:5). It is important, however, that our conviction is based on a sound mind and not on speculation, unproven narratives or political propaganda. (For instance, a concept that wearing a mask is our patriotic duty or responsibility is as wrong as the idea that wearing a mask is sinful and constitutes acceptance of the mark of the beast.)
However, God commands us to work, earn money and support our family, and we should consider in this context whether or not a commanded activity, enabling us to do so, is “neutral” in that it does not violate God’s command to worship Him properly. Health concerns should be taken into consideration as well, when it comes, for instance, to wearing masks or getting vaccinated, such as difficulties with breathing, allergies, a compromised immune system, reactions to vaccinations, etc. But health concerns must not become our main priority if this means neglecting other and perhaps even more demanding duties. We read, for example, that Epaphroditus became sick because he worked so hard in the Work of God (Philippians 2:25-30). Paul said: “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
It is true, of course, that we are not to put God to the test. On the other hand, we must also recognize that time and chance do not rule over a Christian, but that he is in God’s hands. It is therefore important that we always pray to God for His lead, guidance, inspiration and protection (Psalm 48:14; Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 10:23 and Isaiah 58:11), and that we do not judge or condemn anyone who might decide in a way other than what our preference would be, because our situation might be quite different from the situation of our next-door neighbor, relative or friend.
James asks this question: “Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:12). We are all God’s servants, and so, Paul asks this question: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls…” (Romans 14:4). In 1 Corinthians 4:5, he says: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will… reveal the counsels of the hearts…” He also states in 1 Corinthians 10:29: “For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?”
Whatever our individual decision will be, especially when it comes to getting or not getting vaccinated, God’s Church will back us up, honoring our individual conviction, based on our circumstances. Wearing a mask or getting vaccinated is not tantamount to accepting the mark of the beast, nor do they constitute sinful conduct (unless wearing a mask prevents us from worshipping God in a proper and righteous way.) Neither is it sinful conduct not to get vaccinated.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link