One of the most recognized numbers in all the world is that of “666”, the infamous mark of the Beast (Rev. 13:16-18). Many people have heard about the “brand” that will be put on the hand or forehead of people which apparently becomes critical to their existence. But there is also a great deal of misunderstanding and concerns about the “mark of the Beast”. In this brief discussion, we want to get some facts straight about the “mark”, and also see what the present world economy might be telling us about things to come.
Basic Facts Concerning the Mark of the Beast. It is helpful to have the text of Revelation 13 in front of us, so we quote here the relevant verses.
“And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a MARK on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or sell, except the one who has the MARK, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” Revelation 13:16-18
Fact #1. The appearance and applying of the “mark of the Beast” does not occur until the middle of the Tribulation period. Revelation 13 focuses on the second half of the 7-year period of tribulation and that is where the “mark” becomes so critical to life. So, people today in the church age do not need to be concerned about being forced to receive the “mark.”
Fact #2. It is actually the “second beast”, known as the “False Prophet” (Rev. 19:20) who puts the “mark” on people. The False Prophet is a miracle worker and thus he is able to deceive unbelievers and get them to worship the Antichrist (the first beast), to worship the image of the Antichrist and to accept the “mark” of the first beast.
Fact #3. Having the “mark” will enable a person to carry on the basic economic activities of buying and selling. Without such ability, life will be nearly impossible for the average person; no trade or commerce and no ability to obtain the necessities of life. Undoubtedly the “mark” will be an effective tool used by Satan in depriving the followers of Jesus Christ the basics needed to sustain life. Those who have the “mark” will apparently live normally (if life in the tribulation could be called normal).
Fact #4. It appears that receiving the “mark” is a choice people make; a choice which aligns them with Satan and the Antichrist. Though the people are indeed deceived by the False Prophet, nevertheless it is an act of their will that is involved; they are not “victims”. Their thought is undoubtedly on present survival and not on their eternal future. The “mark” seals their fate as is seen in the final series of “bowl judgments” where those with the “mark” are the targets of God’s final judgments (see Rev. 16:2).
Fact #5. When the text tells the reader to “calculate the number of the beast…” it is probable that this is directed to the people who live in the time of the tribulation. For centuries, scholars have tried to figure out what the text is saying so that the Antichrist can be identified. For centuries, people have been involved in gematria (number mysticism), where certain letters are assigned numerical value. Those numbers are then added up and if “666” is achieved then perhaps the Antichrist is in view. This has been applied to Nero and other Caesars, to certain modern day politicians and others. (A certain theology professor of mine had a name that added up to 666!).
But the main point to the “mark of the beast” is an economic one. We know that commercial life will go on during the tribulation period (note Rev. 18). And we know that buying and selling is the very foundation of economic life and that is what the “mark” controls. There will be in the second half of the tribulation period control of the world’s economic life by the Antichrist. This will go on in full force for 3 ½ years, but will no doubt be set up by years of economic events such as depressions, collapsing of monetary systems and crushing debt. This brings us to where the world economy is now and whether the present situation could be preparing the world for Revelation 13:16-18.
The Mark of the Beast and the Present World Economy. The internet recently has been filled with a number of economists who foresee a terrible collapse of America’s economy as well as that of the world. One such book, “The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System” was written by James Rickards.
In April of 2002 the CIA began “Project Prophesy” which was designed to try and see how terrorists might bring down America by going after its economy. The author of the above named book was part of the project. This project later evolved into MARKINT (Market Intelligence) and some important realities were discovered or emphasized. It became clearer on how interdependent the economies of countries were and how one could make economic war on other countries. It has become more likely that the US dollar could collapse in that the US debt problem is not temporary and that it cannot really be fixed. Standing behind the banks of the world is the IMF (International Monetary Fund) which exists to control finance and to contain both economic risk and economic development in the world. The IMF has its own currency (the SDR) which is a nondollar currency. This is a place where presently some worldwide economic control takes place.
While most of us are not economists, we recognize that having huge debt, continually printing money and manipulating the markets cannot end well. And since the economies of nations are so closely linked, we understand that what happens in American or Europe or Japan affects economics deeply and quickly elsewhere in the world. Perhaps as never before in all of human history, we can see the possibility of a one world economy which could be controlled by one man. We see the very real interdependency of nations in the world economy.
Is the IMF, or something like it, the forerunner to the worldwide control that is seen in Revelation 13? That, of course, is impossible for us at this point in time to know. But could it be that this is one more “piece of furniture” that is now in place on the stage of biblical prophecy? Jesus told us that we cannot know the exact timing of end time events. But He also told us that basic indicators would be observable and we are to take note of them. If we are, in fact, nearing the end of the present age then the world monetary situation is set and ready to go.
All of this is not to cause us to develop a “bunker mentality” but live as well as possible for the Lord Jesus in whatever time He gives us either individually or collectively. And it is another reminder that this world is not our home and that we just passing through…into the great kingdom of Messiah Jesus.