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Chapter 21

The Mark of the Beast

 

(This chapter and chapters 22 and 23 are extracted from Russell and Colin Standish, The Popeís Letter and Sunday Laws, pp.29ó46.)

Revelation 13 refers to the mark of the beast as the enforced act of worship which will lead to a death decree against dissenters.

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:15ó17)

Dire divine consequences are warned if we accept the mark of the beast.

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:9ó11)

It is imperative that we identify the mark of the beast, for the unwavering rejection of it is focal to our loyalty to Christ. First let us seek the identifying characteristics of those who compose this remnant of Israel which will receive the great joy of salvation. The prophet Zephaniah plainly identifies them: they are believers who possess three character traits:

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth. (Zephaniah 3:13)

The people who comprise the remnant possess the following characteristics:

1. They do no iniquity (in Godís strength, yielding to Him day by day and moment by moment, they have confessed and forsaken their sins through the power of Christ).

2. They speak no lies.

3. They possess no deceitful tongue.

Characteristics 2 and 3 are allied. The term "guile" is a single word incorporating lying with deceit.

It is of no small import that these two characteristics are precisely those cited as a summary of Christís character.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:21, 22)

It is vital that we ponder this passage, for here all Christians are admonished to seek Godís power, which is sent through the Holy Spirit, in order to emulate Christís character. Notice that Christís character was summarized as possessing two featuresó

1. He did no sin.

2. There was no guile in His mouth.

Thus the remnant of Zephaniah 3:13 are those who have followed the example of Christís character. Yet today many members of the clergy make no calls for their flock to seek earnestly, through prayer, the faith which will provide them with the power of the Holy Spirit to develop characters akin to that of Jesus. Of even greater concern is the fact that not a few shepherds of the flock encourage their members to believe that persistent sin in the life is no barrier to salvation. Those who accept such unscriptural error will receive the mark of the beast for they are clearly unqualified to be a portion of the remnant who shall be saved.

Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved. (Romans 9:27)

Some may cry, "Legalism!" No, a thousand times, No! To reflect Christís character is simply to love Him tenderly and wholeheartedly and by so doing also love one another.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. (1 Peter 1:22)

Further, let us notice what Scripture attests concerning the end-time saints. It is not without great significance that the words immediately following Christís severe denunciation of those who receive the mark of the beast (See Revelation 14:9ó11, pg. 93) are as follows:

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)

The question rightly arises, Are we not saved by grace (Godís mercy), and grace alone? The answer to this question is an emphatic "Yes," allowing that His grace is accessed by faith. Scripture testifies to this explicitly.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Thus even the possession of a Christ-like character provides no ground or basis for our salvation. Christís immeasurable grace, His mercy, alone saves us from our sins. This concept must never be minimized. It is central to the gospel. That grace is provided for us through the death of our Savior on Calvary. We are not saved by the development of a Christ-like character; but we cannot be saved without it, for the possession of such a character, as we have seen, is an inevitable result of receiving the fullness of Godís grace.

For if by one manís offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

So important is this truth that Christ impressed it on the tables of stone when preparing His Ten Commandments. Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church has deigned to entirely expunge this matter from the Ten Commandments. God wrote,

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:6)

Godís mercy in providing salvation, that is, His saving grace, is not bestowed without conditions. These conditions are, love for Him and keeping His commandments. This passage of Scripture, while present in Roman Catholic versions of Scripture such as the Douay Version, and the Jerusalem Bible, has been removed from Roman Catholic catechisms, as has the remainder of the second commandment:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4ó6)

Keep this in mind as we further evaluate the meaning of the mark of the beast. Those who have read John Paul IIís Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, and have been confused by his continued reference to the Sabbath commandment as the third commandment, need to understand that the Roman Catholic Churchís expulsion of the second commandment from the decalogue necessitates the altering of the numeration of the Ten Commandments. Thus Roman Catholics refer to the Sabbath commandment as the third and not the fourth, as Scripture testifies.

The Bible teaches that the ground for our salvation is grace, while the condition upon which grace is bestowed is faith that is manifested in obedience to Godís commandments (Ephesians 2:8, James 2:9, 10), an obedience found in the lives of Godís last-day saints (Revelation 14:12). Scripture asserts that it is the remnant who keep Godís commandments, upon whom the dragon, who in Revelation 12:9 is identified as Satan, focuses his great rage in the last days of earthís history (Revelation 12:17).

We have seen that the remnant will possess the character of Christ which is summarized in 1 Peter 2:22 by two featuresóHe did no sin, and no guile was found in His mouth. There is also another synonym used for Godís end-time people who will possess this same character. Indeed, this group of faithful people, called by another name, are also the remnant. They are crucial to our discovery of the nature of the mark of the beast.

This synonym for the remnant is, the 144,000. Listen to the summary of their characters.

And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:5)

We see that they share with Christ, mouths without guile, and are faultless (sinless) before the throne of God. God declares,

I will not justify the wicked. (Exodus 23:7)

Of course, the remnant/144,000, are redeemed sinners, "for all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). But in the power of the Holy Spirit they have developed a life of overcoming.

Overcoming is characteristic of genuine belief. Many Christians accept two statements of Scripture with no better belief than do Satan and his angels. Let it not be forgotten that,

the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

An intellectual acknowledgment alone is Satanís counterfeit version of belief. Be not deceived, Satan has counterfeited every virtue of God. Yet Scripture does assert,

that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:15, 16)

Christ guaranteed eternal life upon the condition of belief. Paul and Silas gave the same assurance to the Philippian jailer.

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)

So then in what way does genuine belief differ from the belief that Satan and his angels possess, and which he offers as a deceptive substitute? The following passage presents the features of true belief in Christ.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1ó5)

Take note that this entire passage is related to genuine belief, for this is clearly stated in the first and the last verses of the passage.

Now let us highlight the seven character features of true belief enumerated in this passage of Godís Word:

1. We must be born of Godóthe new birth experience (verses 1, 4).

2. We love God with the whole heart (verses 1, 2, 3).

3. We love our neighbor as ourselves (1, 2).

4. We keep (obey) Godís commandments (verses 2, 3).

5. We must overcome the world/worldliness (verses 4, 5).

6. We must have victory over sin (verse 4).

7. We must have faith, the faith of Jesus (verse 4).

Few Christians who describe themselves as "believers" measure up to these criteria. The five foolish virgins were "believers," but because they lacked the oil in their lamps, the symbol of the Holy Spirit and His power in their lives, they failed to attain eternal life for they had accepted the devilís counterfeit belief.

The same is true of the Christians described by Christ, who will be aghast that they have failed to gain eternal life.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21ó23)

We observe that these "believers" did many works, but they did not possess the character of Christ for they did not do the will of God. Many of these have been beguiled by preachers who have promised salvation to those who neglect to meet the conditions. The remnant/144,000 have not accepted such sophistries.


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